Barry Bellchambers has passed away March 5 after an extended battle with leukemia. He would have been 70 on Sunday.
Those who knew him remember his contributions to Yukon’s tourism industry and his sense of humour.
“I shared a hotel room with him in London one time and I stayed on for a few more days and found one of Barry’s shoes in the room,” said Neil Hartling, owner of Nahanni River Adventures. “When I went to return it to him at the High Country in Whitehorse, I announced my arrival at the front desk and Barry came out into the main lobby with one shoe on and one barefoot, saying, ‘I was hoping you’d get here with my shoe. It’s been awfully cold.’”
Bellchambers moved to the Yukon from Tasmania about 45 years ago. He came with a sense of adventure and an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I’ve known Barry ever since he was a young man of 30 years, when he had first come to the Yukon,” said Doug Phillips, Yukon’s commissioner. “I knew him as a man who came up here without much in his pocket – he wasn’t a rich man when he arrived by any means. But he was someone who could seize on an opportunity and knew what hard work was all about. And Barry exemplified that his whole life.”
Along with pioneering commercial submarines in Hawaii, he built the High Country Inn in Whitehorse from an old YWCA building.
“Barry was quite an entrepreneur,” said Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. “He grabbed onto the YWCA at the time when it was really floundering and he took that over, and he virtually made the High Country Inn into something, and it was quite an accomplishment.”
Bellchambers next bought the old Lions pool next door and turned it into a conference centre.
“He made that beautiful space and allowed in doing so … for so many more conferences and meetings. And the Yukon Convention Bureau – it just brought them to life because now they had a much larger facility and more than one facility to deal with,” said Karp. “So he made quite a contribution in that respect to Whitehorse.”
By all accounts Bellchambers gave much credit for his success where it was due, to his wife and partner Maggie.
“When Maggie was fighting stage-four colon cancer, he sold the hotel and was there for her completely,” said Claire Festel, former executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, in a press release. “Her miraculous recovery had much to do with her love for Barry and his support.”
“He was a risk taker,” said Phillips. “He was someone who would look at something and when everyone else wouldn’t see it, Barry could go, ‘You know, there’s an opportunity here. An opportunity to make some change and do something different.’ And I think we were very fortunate in the Yukon that he chose us as his home, because he has really done a great deal I think over his life to make Yukon a better place for a lot of us.
“He’s going to be really missed. He was a neighbour and a friend and we spent a bit of time together. He loved to laugh, he loved to have a good time with his friends, and I know there are going to be a lot of people who are quite sad this week knowing that Barry’s gone.”
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