A one-time plumbing apprentice whose family history on the North Shore dates back 78 years has donated $25 million to Lions Gate Hospital.
Keith Plumbing & Heating owner Paul Myers’ substantial donation makes it the largest financial contribution to a hospital foundation in B.C. by an individual, according to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation.
“I’m just a plumber who worked hard and had some good luck in my life,” said Myers, who bought Keith Plumbing & Heating in the 1960s after apprenticing with the company founded in North Vancouver in 1911.
The West Vancouver businessman also credits smart real-estate investments early on in his life for his success.
“I can’t take it with me,” joked Myers, 82, to the News Wednesday, when asked why he made the donation.
Lions Gate Hospital Foundation president Judy Savage praised Myers’ philanthropy. “This is certainly a transformational gift. These don’t come along every day.”
Myers’ donation will be put towards Lions Gate Hospital’s long-term plans to create a new patient care facility. In the meantime, the hospital’s south acute tower has been renamed the Paul Myers tower in his honour.
“It’s no surprise to anybody that we need to improve our facilities,” said Savage, of Lions Gate’s aging infrastructure.
During a North Vancouver City council meeting a year ago, Vancouver Coastal Health’s director of strategic planning hinted that a major facelift, including a possible new tower, was coming to Lions Gate in the next decade to address a projected population increase.
A clinical services review for the hospital is currently underway, according to Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Gary Carr, with a more refined vision expected within the year to determine what the specialized needs are from the Lions Gate Hospital community.
Last year Lions Gate opened its doors to a $62.2-million acute mental health facility, the HOpe Centre, a project that saw the foundation’s previous largest donation of $10 million from Greta and Robert Ho.
West Vancouver businessman Jim Pattison earlier put in $5 million for a major revamp of Lions Gate’s emergency department.
For his part in supporting the hospital, Myers said it’s the result of surrounding himself with smart people and the hard work he’s put in over the years.
When he was four years old Myers’ family settled in Lynn Valley. He recalls mainly working-class people living in Lynn Valley’s east end in the 1930s, with few fancy houses.
At 15 years old, Myers made his first investment, purchasing a humble abode on Wellington Road for $150, astute to the fact it had five extra lots. He sold it for $500. Two years later the new owners sold it for $4,000.
“I thought that was a good lesson: you can’t sneeze at a profit,” says Myers.
He carried that mantra throughout his life, accumulating more properties, mostly industrial, and offloading them when the time was right.
A pre-apprentice certificate in hand, Myers knocked on the door of Keith Plumbing & Heating’s then-headquarters at 17th and Lonsdale in 1954. They hired him, but he wasn’t a good apprentice, admits Myers with a laugh, saying he’s not mechanically minded. It turns out he was more business savvy.
After taking over the reins 10 years later, Myers continued to grow the company with a strong focus on commercial and public projects as well as government contracts. The company has also operated a branch in the Yukon for the past three decades.
Hospitals are Keith Plumbing & Heating’s bread and butter, with the HOpe Centre and BC Cancer Agency among the company’s projects.
When other contractors shied away from the work Myers jumped in, explaining he enjoys the complexity hospital projects offer, from the medical piped gas systems to the ventilation to fire protection.
“Sometimes it can be up to 25 per cent of the capital costs of the hospital,” says Myers.
At the same time Keith Plumbing & Heating has secured large contracts with Seaspan and other big companies along the industrial waterfront.
Still at the helm of Keith Plumbing & Heating, Myers says he is getting tired.
“The longest holiday I ever had in my life was 11 days, once,” he says.
In his spare time Myers enjoys being outside and routinely hiked the Grouse Grind up until last year. In addition to celebrating his contribution to Lions Gate, he will soon welcome his first great-grandchild.
“I’m looking forward to that because grandkids are one of my best things in life,” says Myers.