Family man, veteran, broadcaster, educator, author, volunteer. Born March 26, 1920, in Llanwern, Wales. Died Aug. 6, 2011, in North Vancouver, B.C., of complications from surgery, aged 91.
When Mike Bevan was born on a Welsh estate, it looked as if he would live a privileged and predictable life. His father Richard ran with the set around the Prince of Wales and, like many of his friends, had bought a ranch in southwest Calgary.
In 1924, the family moved to Calgary to find that the ranch had been sold for unpaid taxes. Richard took his first job and lost it in 1929, so, at the age of 10, Mike sold newspapers for six hours a day to help support the family.
At 15, a school dropout, Mike asked a regular customer, former prime minister R.B. Bennett, what would be his topic when he spoke to the League of Nations. Impressed, Mr. Bennett got Mike a scholarship to finish high school at Ridley College in Ontario.
On his return to Calgary, Mike had no money for university, so he joined a Depression-era work camp, where he learned about trees and earned $1 a day. Then he got his next break: Frank Foulds, Mike’s Rover Scout leader and later grain commissioner for Alberta, tracked him down and helped him enroll at the University of Alberta.
When the Second World War broke out, Mike joined the air force. In Toronto, on his way to Europe, he met Jean Melrose, whom he married in 1944. They had four children: Peggy, Doug, Lynn and Don.
Mike was injured in the war and resumed his agricultural studies, graduating with a BSc in 1945. Before finishing his graduate work, he was appointed, at 29, Canada’s youngest provincial horticulturist, in Manitoba.
When the Red River flooded in 1950, the family moved to Niagara Falls, Ont. In quick succession, Mike started a frozen vegetable business, developed a sustainable project on the Niagara Escarpment called Bevan Heights and, intrigued by the new medium of television, joined the CBC. In just six years, he became a director and producer of radio and television programs, winning six international awards. He was 36 when he was fired for his coverage of Diefenbaker policies.
Mike then took on his greatest role – as a high-school science teacher. One of his former students, Olympic rower Silken Laumann, said he could make the “study of mitochondria seem like a thriller: It blew up my limiting beliefs of what I was capable of.”
In middle age, Mike was an acting principal, co-author of two books and a municipal councillor in Vaughan, Ont. He earned a master’s in education from the University of Toronto, taught in London and rebuilt the school system in St. Lucia for the Canadian International Development Agency.
Mike and Jean retired to Niagara-on-the Lake, Ont., in 1997. After Jean’s death, he moved to be with family in Vancouver in 2004, and continued his community work until he died.
By Lynn Bevan, Mike’s daughter.
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