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Jack PIRIE

PIRIE, R. Jack
March 8, 1928 – March 1, 2024

With very heavy hearts, but immense pride and gratitude for a life remarkably well-lived, the family of Reginald “Jack” Pirie of Calgary, Alberta announce that Jack passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, March 1, 2024 at the age of 95 years, just one week shy of his 96th birthday.

The pillars in Jack’s life were family, business, community, and public policy, and he was extraordinarily committed to each.

He was born in Senlac, Saskatchewan on March 8, 1928, along with his identical twin brother Gordon, to Winnifred and Edward Pirie. Senlac was a village of 100 residents and the family home had no electricity or running water. Growing up during the depression, he and his siblings worked hard, studied hard, found time for some fun, and actively participated in community life. They did countless odd jobs to help the family make ends meet, including raising and selling Angora rabbits. Undoubtedly, these years in Senlac instilled in him the values that would guide him later in life: hard work and self-reliance, commitment to family and community, honesty, integrity, and an entrepreneurial spirit. In 1942, the family moved to Humboldt, Saskatchewan, where Jack attended high school. During those years, he helped out with the family hardware store and coped with the early loss of his father.

Jack graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1950 with a degree in Electrical Engineering, and then moved to Ontario to take a job with General Electric. After six years at GE, Jack decided that business was his true calling and headed to Harvard Business School, graduating with an MBA in 1958. Jack then returned to Toronto, and it was there on a blind date that he met an attractive, intelligent, spirited school teacher named Daphne Allen. After a couple of different jobs in Toronto, including serving as the general manager of a skate manufacturing company, W.H. Dunne Skate Co., Jack decided to move out west to be with his ailing mother. Soon, Daphne followed, and Jack eventually made the best decision of his life, marrying Daphne in Calgary on July 8, 1961. Around the same time, and wanting a fresh start professionally, Jack responded to a job opening at Dome Petroleum, a mid-sized “up and coming” oil and gas company. That was the second best decision of his life. He spent the next 17 years working closely with Jack Gallagher and Bill Richards, both icons of the Canadian oil patch, who built one of the most storied oil companies in Canadian history.

In 1978, at the age of 50, Jack left Dome with a dream to own his own business, and in 1979 purchased a small oil and gas company called Sabre Petroleums Ltd. – in his words, “with a buck and a half of my own money and a whole lot of bank debt”. He built Sabre into a thriving junior oil and gas production company that remains in the family today. His years with Dome and Sabre established Jack as an astute oil and gas executive, and the success of Sabre allowed the family, over time, to diversify its business holdings into a number of other sectors.

Jack was deeply passionate about public policy and spent much of his later life reading, researching, and writing on public policy matters. He believed strongly in free markets, small government, personal freedom, and the importance of education to a prosperous society. He also believed that individuals, businesses, and community organizations have a responsibility to help members of society not able to help themselves. In 1993, he established the Pirie Foundation to support education and charitable organizations that share these same values.

Jack became quietly active in politics as one of the first key businessmen in Calgary to support the Reform Party of Canada, providing the party with its initial Calgary office space at Sabre’s offices. He and Daphne were instrumental in fundraising and getting the word out about the party when it was in its infancy. Jack was also a longstanding supporter and trustee of the Fraser Institute.

Jack and Daphne were married for 64 years, raising their three children, Neal, Kim and Mark. In the early years, the family enjoyed countless weekends and holidays at the cottage on Lake Windermere. In later years, Jack and Daphne spent their winters on Maui, where Jack enjoyed time on the golf course and a beautiful view of Molokini and Kahoolawe while working on his favourite public policy projects. There, they built a family home where they would often spend time with their kids, grandkids and close friends. Martinis and sashimi on “the point”, meticulously prepared by Jack, were often the order of the day.

Most who knew Jack would have a story or two about his sharp wit and dry, sometimes unconventional, sense of humour. Even during his struggles with dementia in later years, he often managed a joke or mischievous comment that would very much remind us of the old Jack.

Jack is survived by his wife Daphne; son Neal and wife Karen, grandsons Jack and Will; daughter Kim, grandsons Justin (Kendall), Matthew and Aidan; and son Mark and wife Sheree, granddaughter Ainsley and grandsons Spencer and Bennett. Jack is also survived by his younger brother, Glen Pirie (Sharon), and his sister-in-law, Jean Pirie. Jack was predeceased by his parents, his identical twin brother, Gordon Pirie, his older sister Patricia and her husband Les Chasmar, and his sister-in-law, Edna-Mae Pirie.

The Pirie family would like to express their sincere gratitude to Jack’s family physician, Dr. Thomas Szabo, his longtime caregiver, Kezia Sliwkanich, and all of the other extraordinary caregivers for the kindness, compassion and loving care they provided to Jack over the years.

A Memorial Service will be held at Christ Church Elbow Park (3602 – 8th Street SW, Calgary, AB) on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, at 1:30 p.m. Reception and program to follow at The Ranchmen’s Club (710 – 13th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB).

If friends and family so desire, memorial tributes/donations may be made directly to the Dementia Research Team at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, at: https://engage.ucalgary.ca/Jack_Pirie.

Condolences, memories, and photos may be shared and viewed with Jack’s family at http://www.MHFH.com.

In living memory of R. Jack Pirie, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area.

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