Comox Valley outdoors club shocked by same-day deaths of two key members

The sudden passing of Keith MacKenzie and Ron Watanabe has shocked the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association.

PRESIDENT KEITH MACKENZIE (left) and vice-president Ron Watanabe make a donation to a Comox Valley Food Bank representative on behalf of the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association.

The sudden passing of president Keith MacKenzie and vice-president Ron Watanabe has shocked and stunned the membership of the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association.

Both men were prominent figures in the organization that is dedicated to wildlife management and conservation.

“They both went the same day,” club secretary Gail Eggiman said. “Both of them were well involved in everything with the club … working at every event no matter what event it is — working and volunteering at them.”

Watanabe, who had been undergoing treatment for cancer, had returned from Vancouver for Saturday’s annual fundraiser banquet at the Filberg Centre. He passed away early Monday.

That same morning, MacKenzie died from a heart attack. He was supposed to MC Watanabe’s service next weekend.

“I received a phone call from Keith in the morning to tell me about Ron, asking me to e-mail the membership, and then a couple hours later I get a phone call from Keith’s family asking me to be with his wife because Keith was gone. I couldn’t believe it,” said Eggiman, whose husband Steve was MacKenzie’s longtime hunting and fishing partner.

MacKenzie was president the past 12 years, dating back to the club’s previous location by the Puntledge River.

Acting president Dale Frame said he was a “stable pillar” of the club.

“He’s definitely going to be a huge loss to the association,” Frame said. “It’s going to take the rest of us a few years to catch up to his performance.”

Watanabe had been with the club since the ’90s. He co-ordinated the Fishing Forever program for seniors, and served as a representative on several sports fishing and conservation committees.

“He was very interested in the (Comox) lake, the different things that we could be doing for enhancement purpose,” Frame said. “Ron was huge in that type of stuff, anything to do with habitat for fish and wildlife. That was his main contribution.

“They were hugely dedicated people,” Frame added. “It was pretty hard to match the time that they’ve put in.”

A Celebration of Life will be held for MacKenzie on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Fish and Game clubhouse, and for Watanabe on Saturday, March 9 at 1 p.m., also at the clubhouse at 3780 Comox Lake Rd.

Record columnist Ralph Shaw, a Fish and Game member, will devote a full writeup to both men in next Friday’s column.

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