Point Edward businessman remembered as a key driver of development

Garvin Lee Image courtesy of Smith Funeral Home Sarnia.

A prominent businessman who overcame racial oppression in Southeast Africa is being remembered as being a key driver of community development in Point Edward.

Garvin Lee, 89, died Saturday, June 18, after a long battle with a terminal illness.

Lee was awarded the Blue Water Bridge Duty Free Shop in 1986 and initiated the campaign to build the charity casino in the village, which opened in 2000.

Point Edward Mayor Bev Hand said both facilities are distinguished.

“The duty free wins awards and brings recognition to this area and certainly his influence in having the vision to go for the casino has had a long lasting economic impact on the village obviously,” said Hand.

Mayor Hand said when Lee talked, people listened.

“He was a very quiet person, so when he said something it was a point that he wanted to make.”

She credits Lee for initiating a plebiscite on the casino.

“That was really different, because with the idea of having the plebiscite, you had the support of the municipality behind you when you moved forward with the plan. So, that was a good way to do it as it turned out.”

Mayor Hand said it’s unfortunate Lee wasn’t able to see his full plan for Point Edward realized.

“He had the modeling, he had the vision of what he wanted to do with the waterfront, and we weren’t able to get there for whatever different reasons over the years, with the environmental issues and things like that. But, it was quite a vision that he had with the apartments and condos and all of the different things that he wanted to build.”

Mayor Hand is confident his children will carry on his legacy.

“I work from time to time with Gerry and Tania Lee and they’ve learned a lot from their dad and are carrying on the work that he was doing.”

According to his obituary, Lee was the second of six children born to Chinese immigrants in Zimbabwe.

As a result of apartheid-era restrictions, he was only permitted a Grade 8 level education and joined the family bakery at a young age.

Lee continued his education on his own and expanded the family business, with his late brother, into a conglomerate of supermarkets, shopping centres and duty-free stores.

He immigrated to Canada in 1979.

To read Lee’s full obituary, click here.