One of Kelowna’s best-known businessmen and philanthropists has died.
Mel Kotler, who helped raise millions of dollars for many local charities and events, including the Okanagan Jewish Centre, the United Way, Cops For Kids, the Rotary Centre For the Arts, breast cancer research, The Sindi Hawkins Cancer Centre for the Southern Interior, the annual AIDS walk, the annual Canada Day Festival and Project Literacy lost his battle with cancer on weekend.
He was 69.
“It’s very sad news,” said Kelowna city manger Ron Mattiussi on Monday. “When Mel came to this city, he jumped right in with both feet. Many people don’t contribute but he did, he really did.”
Mattiussi said he worked with Kotler most recently last winter, when the city expedited a last minute request to install a giant Menorah at Stuart Park to mark the Jewish holiday of passover.
Kotler, a Montreal native who moved to Kelowna in 1985, was a leader in the local Jewish community and instrumental in helping build the Okanagan Jewish Community Centre Glenmore.
During his career in business he started and built up the Fabricland chain to be one of the leading textile retailers in the country. Through his Fabricland stores, he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for breast-cancer research.
In 2001, he retired as the president of Fabricland and despite being “retired,” continued his volunteer and philanthropic endeavours as well as turning his attention to property development. With his partners, he build the Madison condominium building at the corner of Ellis Street and Doyle Avenue downtown.
But he is likely best known by many for his leadership of the United Way’s 2003, fundraising campaign. As chairman of that campaign, he helped the United Way raise more than $1 million here for the first time.
In an interview posted on the provincial government’s Seniors B.C. website, Kotler was asked if volunteering had changed his life.
“Absolutely. I really believe that it contributes to my emotional well-being —it can be quite therapeutic. It feels good to help out, and I’d be a dull person without outside interests. Volunteering is a great way to fill the days when you retire. Life will take you down a path, if you let it. People who don’t volunteer are missing out.”
In 2002 Kotler was presented with a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal by the late Kelowna-Mission MLA Sindi Hawkins for his outstanding service to the community. He was also named entrepreneur of the year, as well as community leader of the year, by the local business community.
In 2004, he was named the city’s Man of The Year, for his contribution to the wellbeing of the City of Kelowna.
The United Way recognized his leadership and service with a series of honours including the B.C. Vice-Chair’s Award of Distinction in 2004 and the Award of Distinction in 2008. Last year, he was awarded an honorary degree by Okanagan College.