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Truro's loss: Dave Wilson grew Ski Wentworth, Wilsons Fuels, Kerr Controls, generally a 'pillar of the community'

Prominent Truro businessman David Kerr Wilson.
Prominent Truro businessman David Kerr Wilson. - Contributed

Lifelong Truro resident, prominent businessman and community ambassador David Kerr Wilson has died.

He was 91.

“It is with heavy hearts we announce the passing of David Kerr Wilson,” his obituary reads, of his passing on June 29.

“David, ‘Call me Dave’, was born and raised in Truro. A proud Truronian, Nova Scotian and Canadian, Dave led a life well-lived. An entrepreneur, father, grandfather, uncle, sportsman and friend, Dave’s gregarious personality and zest for life made a lasting impression on all who met him,” says the obituary, from the Colchester Community Funeral Home.

Truro Mayor Bill Mills said he will always remember Dave’s “famous smile” and friendly greeting that never changed over the years. “I always looked forward to talking to Dave and he was like that with everybody,” Mills said.

“He had the ability to make everybody feel comfortable. They talk about the twinkle in his eye and I thought he was genuinely happy to talk to anybody. And, that was not just when it was convenient, that was all the time.”

Early life

Dave grew up in Truro but for several “enjoyable years” he attended the King’s-Edgehill School (KES) in Windsor, N.S., where he thrived in the environment of scholastics, cadets and sports, playing both rugby and hockey. He became Head Boy during his final year and also demonstrated his early entrepreneurial skills while at the school by creating a canteen and laundry service. In later years, Dave was a loyal patron of KES and donated generously to his “second home” by sponsoring many student scholarships.

“Certainly David has made his mark on Truro along with brother Peter and the whole Wilson family,” Mills said.

During his post-secondary years, Dave attended the University of King’s College in Halifax, where he played several varsity and club sports.

Business basics

In 2013, Dave and his business partner/sister-in-law, Rose Wilson, received their Doctor of Civil Law in recognition of their contributions to the university and Nova Scotia society.
Following university, he returned to Truro to join the family business, Wilson Fuel Co. Ltd., and helped his father George solidify the operation as a leading regional fuel supplier. Later, with his late brother and business partner, Peter, they expanded Wilsons into propane and gasoline. Wilsons now employs over 1,200 people in its various divisions including Wilsons Heating, Propane, Mechanical, Plumbing, Security and Wilsons and ESSO gas stations.

At age 20, his obituary says, Dave forged out on his own by establishing Kerr Controls Ltd., an HVACR parts and equipment distributor, which has grown into a distribution centre with its head office in Truro and 12 branches located throughout Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

Deep roots in Truro

Mills said it was that type of unwavering loyalty to his hometown that helped make Dave stand out as the type of down-to-earth person he always was.

“He was rare gentleman, a very rare gentleman,” Mills said. “And, I think the fact their head office is still in Truro speaks a lot of the way Dave looked at his community and where he came from. He never forgot that. They’re a huge company and their roots run deep here in Truro.”

Dave also maintained his love of sports throughout his lifetime.

“In winter, Dave joined his father and fellow ski enthusiasts making the trek to Wentworth, helping blaze trails and forge a Nova Scotia ski community,” his obituary says. “He established Dave Wilson’s Ski Shop. Later as owner of Ski Wentworth, he transformed the ski area from a club to an outdoor enterprise. Dave also loved his annual ski trips away with friends and the Ski Atlantic Seniors Club. He skied at Wentworth until age 86. He loved the camaraderie of Après-Ski at Ducky’s and could be spotted dancing a mean jig on Robbie Burns Day.”

“Everybody knew Dave, he was a character,” fellow Truro businessman and long-time friend Stu Rath said, with a chuckle.

Rath described Dave as “a very successful businessman” and said he was impressed with how that long-term success has carried on with his family. He also noted Dave’s “very charitable” ways, and how he helped many people who others knew nothing about.

“But, I knew,” he said. “He was a pillar of the community, no question. He’s going to be missed.”

Activities and accolades

With great sadness, we share the news that David Kerr Wilson has passed away. A wonderful man, he will be remembered fondly by so many. https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/15851953/David-Kerr-Wilson

Posted by Wilsons Heating on Thursday, July 2, 2020

For many years, Dave’s summers were spent at Shortt’s Lake where he was “a keen member” of the Shortt’s Lake Yacht and Tennis Club.  “He especially enjoyed debating race strategies at the weekly Saturday Après-Sail and taking in sunsets from the dock,” his obituary says.

Dave served as a Scout master for 16 years and was awarded the Canadian Commemorative Medal for outstanding community service. He was a patron of the Colchester Community Workshops Foundation and served on numerous community boards, including the Colchester YMCA and King’s-Edgehill School. He co-founded the Truro Bearcat Rugby Team in the late 1950s and was involved in the creation of the Cobequid Spartans Gymnastics Club in the 1970s. He also organized the first ski instructor course in Atlantic Canada and became one of the first instructors. He was also past warden of St. John’s Anglican Church in Truro and served on many industry boards, including the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, Nova Scotia Ski Areas Association and Central Nova Tourism Association.

His contributions, both to business and the community at large, did not go unrecognized. He was inducted into the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame with late brother Peter; co-recipient of Red Cross Nova Scotia Humanitarian Award with Rose Wilson; Ernst & Young Atlantic Canada Entrepreneur of the Year; Canadian Ski Council Builder Award; Canadian HVACR Hall of Fame; Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award; Colchester Sport Hall of Fame Builder Award; Truro Rotary Club Community Service Award and University of King’s College Judge Elliott J. Hudson Award and Doctor of Civil Law.

“Wilsons have always stepped up to the plate for fundraising on a number of different occasions from the Victoria Park pool, to the REC centre and probably countless other charities and situations we don’t know about,” Mills said.

“They just quietly went about their business and did stuff like this. They put the home in hometown,” he said. “I think the citizens of Truro have lost a great ambassador for our community.”

Because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, a celebration of Dave’s life is planned at a later date at Ski Wentworth. Online condolences are available at www.ColchesterCommunity.com 

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