VP and General Mgr, Blackwood Partners Mgmt Corp.
This profile was originally published in the April/May 2014 issue of CPABC in Focus magazine.
Profile by Patrick Schryburt
Late in the afternoon of August 3, 1987, a young man attempting to help his father dislodge the family’s houseboat from a dock in St. Ives on Shuswap Lake fell into the water. Though the lake was only about 12-feet deep, the man didn’t know how to swim. Nor did the few bystanders—among them a nurse—who’d witnessed this seemingly innocuous sequence of events. The man’s parents, too, were unable to help, as neither were strong swimmers and both suffered from serious heart problems. All anyone could do was stand by helplessly and watch as the man started to drown.
At a nearby cottage a short distance away, Bill Rempel noticed the commotion. He immediately ran out onto his dock, dived into the lake, and swam over to help the drowning man. After he managed to pull the victim to the surface, bystanders helped haul the man’s blue, lifeless body out of the water and began administering pulmonary resuscitation. Soon after, the man began to cough and gasp for air.
The following year, Bill’s heroic plunge into the Shuswap earned him a Royal Life Saving Society Rescue Commendation.
“Getting him to the surface took a significant physical and mental effort,” Bill says. “There have been times since then that I have been faced with daunting challenges, both personally and professionally, and I have been able to look back on this incident and find an inner strength to accomplish the ‘challenge of the day.’ This experience also reinforced my belief in teamwork—I was so relieved there was a nurse on the dock that day who was able to revive the victim.”
Bill’s act of heroism is part of a life spent helping others and giving back.
“I have always found volunteering to be a very rewarding and growing experience,” he says. “It is a great opportunity to meet many amazing individuals and to better understand other points of view. Seldom are there only two sides of a coin when dealing with complex issues.”
Bill has been particularly dedicated at the civic level, where his many contributions include serving for more than eight years on the board of directors of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, serving for four years on the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, and volunteering for four years on behalf of the Vancouver Fair Tax Coalition. He has also served as president of the Burnaby Chamber of Commerce and of both the Vancouver and Surrey business improvement associations (BIAs).
“For the most part, businesses are not able to vote,” he says. “It’s important that civic leaders hear the voice of business and understand the vital role that commerce plays in our communities. BIAs, boards of trade, and the Fair Tax Coalition are great venues to communicate this role and help build stronger communities.”
For his many contributions, Bill received CGA-BC’s Community Service Award in 2012, and was named Surrey’s “Business Person of the Year” in 2013.
Today, as vice-president and general manager of Blackwood Partners Management Corporation, he spends much of his professional life helping to develop Surrey’s growing presence as a leading centre for business.
“The Lower Mainland’s future growth will be concentrated ‘South of the Fraser,’ and Surrey’s emerging downtown core will become the economic engine of this region,” Bill says. “It is truly a great opportunity to be part of this evolution.”