Farewell and fair winds

Glenn Harvey Wakefield August 6, 1950 – October 5, 2020

At the helm of the Blue Leopard. Greek Islands, 1969

It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of our beloved husband and father Glenn Wakefield.

Glenn was adored by his wife of 38 years MaryLou, and their two daughters Claire and Nicola who were his pride and joy. Glenn is predeceased by his father Roy, mother Maureen, and younger brother Mark and is survived by his sister Mary, nephew Alex. He will be deeply missed by brother-in-law Peter, sister-in-law Leslie, and sister-in-law Jenny (Grant). Glenn lived with great passion and energy and approached life with a keen sense of adventure.

Glenn was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1950 to parents who emigrated from Portsmouth, England and moved to the west coast after a glimpse of Victoria in springtime. He grew up on San Juan Avenue, now Wakefield Place, in Gordon Head on property that overlooks Haro Strait and San Juan Island. He attended Gordon Head elementary, Mount Doug High School and Camosun College where he made and continued to keep in touch with life-long friends. Glenn worked as a logger, a fisherman, a surveyor and a carpenter. A born adventurer, Glenn travelled around the world in 1969 -70 making friends everywhere he went and keeping in touch with them throughout his life, recently celebrating a 50th reunion.

Glenn became a carpenter and worked alongside his father building Wakefield Construction into a company best known for its heritage restoration of some of Victoria’s iconic landmarks – Market Square, Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue, Munro’s Books and many private residences. His company was honoured to receive local, regional and national heritage awards for its work over the years.

Glenn’s love of his family was well known. He met MaryLou in 1979 and theirs was a storybook love affair. They had two beautiful daughters Claire and Nicola who were his pride and joy.

Glenn’s passion for life, for his family and for sailing was legendary. He owned 5 keel boats over his lifetime and skippered them in Swiftsure and the West Coast Race. The thrill for him was not in winning, but sharing the experience with family and friends. In 1997-98, he and his family spent a year sailing their Haida 26 to many of the storied bays in the South Pacific and on to New Zealand after which they travelled around Australia and on to South Africa. 

Sannu II, South Pacific, 1997

Friends described Glenn as a diamond in the rough, one in a million, a one-off, a hero and a legend. He often defied rules and said he wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have him as a member. For him, it was always about the people and he cherished the camaraderie of many friends at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, the Cruising Club of America and the Ocean Cruising Club (UK).

Glenn’s life-long dream started when he was a young boy on the beach at Arbutus Cove looking out to sea imagining himself one day sailing a tiny boat on a big ocean. He grew up listening to stories about the adventures of Captain Cook, Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Alec Rose. Throughout his life, he read and re-read hundreds of books about sailing particularly those of the single handers with whom he most closely identified – John Guzzwell, Robin Knox Johnston, and Dee Caffari and was thrilled to meet Robin Knox-Johnston in person a number of years ago in Victoria. In 1999, Guzzwell penned prophetic words in a note tucked inside a gifted copy of his Trekka round the World that said, “With today’s crowded cities and the pressures of modern day living, the sea offers space where one can have time to think about one’s destiny. I hope you have found contentment in life.”

Over his lifetime, Glenn logged close to 55,000 nautical miles of open ocean sailing, and made three attempts at completing a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation, his way – west about. While many couldn’t understand what could drive him to undertake something they viewed as impossible, those closest to him understood that it was enough that it mattered to him and they supported his dream every step of the way. He was emboldened by Roosevelt’s words,

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

His last voyage began on September 6 and would have taken him around Cape Horn to the precise location where he was rescued in 2008,
48.10 S, 51.57 W near the Falkland Islands. After that, he planned to stop in Argentina to meet members of the Argentinian navy who rescued him off their coast, and then head home. Tragically, fate had other plans for Glenn who was taken from us before he could fulfill his dream.

Up until the end of his life, he was the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. One way or the other, Glenn’s story will be published. A celebration of Glenn’s life is being planned and will take place when COVID restrictions allow for a gathering. The date will be announced on the blog.

Glenn will be remembered as a loving husband, a dedicated father, loyal friend, a man who worked hard and played harder.

A man who lived life on his own terms. He inspired many of us to fulfill our own dreams and in so doing, each of us honour Glenn’s memory.

Comments

  1. Lori Wheeler says

    “Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality.” Emily Dickinson.
    My heart aches for you MaryLou, Clare and Nicola and yet it soars to think of the ruggedly handsome, passionate sailor who inspires me to live a bigger life.

  2. Sally Dolman says

    Wonderful words Mary Lou, Claire and Nicola.
    What an amazing person whose life you have all shared. I do hope that one day we can host you Downunder.
    Sally, Geoff, Kate and Christopher

  3. Jerry Donaldson says

    A lovely obituary, my condolences to his family and friends. May his memory be a blessing. Jerry Donaldson

  4. David & Daphne Carter says

    We met Glenn a couple of years ago when he did some major renovations to our new to us house. We always looked forward to his cheery smile and positive disposition. He told us that we could do whatever we wanted to the house – it’s just a matter of time and money. We agreed. Glenn was a joy to know and always had an interesting boating tale to tell. He provided us with great changes to our new home where we see his workmanship every day. Gone but far from forgotten.. It was a short friendship that we wish could have been a lot longer.

  5. Jonathan Knox says

    A wonderful life and incredible person. Thank you for writing and sharing this. Sending love to the Wakefield family.

  6. Craig Wesley Jones says

    What a glorious life he (and thus all of you) lived…he earned it, and it makes me so happy that he had it. I enjoyed but a single sailing excursion with Glenn, one epic late summer evening thirty-seven years ago. Never forgot it, largely owing to the warm and magnetic personality of the helmer. I’ve seldom met one so self-assured yet so young — I assumed he would lead a fine life fully, and he surely did that. My sincerest condolences to MaryLou and the family.

  7. Heather Wood says

    This tribute to Glenn helped me understand much more about his passion and love of the seas. My partner Dave followed Glenn’s sailing adventures with enthusiasm. I’m sorry about how his journey ended. He has Inspired and will continue to inspire many. My condolences to you.

  8. Melissa Anderson says

    Beautifully written obit for a beautiful soul.

  9. Bon Voyage Glenn …..until we meet again love Deb Carere and family

  10. Georgina Montgomery says

    A beautiful tribute about a wonderful and inspiring human. To see the sea will always be to see Glenn’s spirit. Love to you three who knew him best and supported his dreams, MaryLou, Claire and Nicola.

    Georgina and Lawrence

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