JR Shaw was celebrated as a passionate family man, business leader and philanthropist at a special gathering on Wednesday.
About 850 family members, friends, dignitaries and community leaders gathered in Calgary’s BMO Centre for a celebration of life for the founder of Shaw Communications. Over 1,000 others watched the ceremony online.
Shaw passed away peacefully on March 23, 2020 at the age of 85, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the in-person tribute until now.
The ceremony, emceed by Global Calgary’s Linda Olsen, began with a video that embodied all that was JR Shaw: a humble man who put people first.
“I love everybody. I hope I’ve treated people the best I can”, his voice was heard saying in a recording that played over the speakers.
Brad Shaw, executive chairman and CEO of Shaw Communications, shared stories of his dad and what he meant to his family and community.
“Dad taught us all — my brother and sisters and me — that you should never leave a table you can’t come back to. He lived it,” he said.
Brad Shaw said all of his dad’s lessons came with a constant theme of family, work and respect.
JR Shaw left a long list of accomplishments behind him when he passed away. He was an officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. People said he was all about “connection” in all that he did.
In business, he connected millions through cable, home phone, wireless and internet by founding the family-run Shaw Communications — one of Canada’s largest and most successful communications companies — and Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global News. The empire began in the 1960s with his simple desire to get more channels on TV in Alberta.
In philanthropy, JR Shaw connected community, giving back to initiatives related to health care, education, technological advancement and the arts. He helped create the Shaw Charity Classic; a stop on the PGA TOUR champions that has raised over $75 million for Alberta charities to date. He also had a special place in his heart for The Shaw Bear Program, collecting half-a-million teddy bears for first responders to give to children during traumatic situations.
Speaking at Wednesday’s celebration of life, Dr. Emily Wang, the senior director of clinical advancement and trauma informed services at Hull Services, spoke of JR Shaw’s contributions and kind heart. He provided funding to build the Shaw Centre for Mental Health and Addictions.
“JR was all in”, Wang said. “He knew that life wasn’t easy for kids at Hull, and he wasn’t willing to accept the status quo — for the kids themselves or for the field of mental health.”
In attendance at Wednesday’s event was Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, and Alberta Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, who took to the podium saying JR Shaw will long be remembered as one of Canada’s bold and forward-looking business innovators, and also as a generous and kind community leader who cared deeply about the welfare of others.
“JR helped countless people to dream, to thrive and to build successful lives for themselves,” she said.
“JR’s powerful example will continue to inspire all of his fellow Albertans and Canadians, and his rare spirit will live on.”
The connection JR Shaw had with his wife, four children, 17 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren is part of what Brad Shaw called his legacy of love, kindness and generosity.
Carol Shaw read a poem for JR, and three of his grandkids all shared their favourite memories of their grandpa.
After an intimate performance of her song “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, the celebration of life ended with JR’s own words: “After we’re gone, we will be remembered by what we have given, not what we have received.” It is a motto JR said he lived by.
“JR meant so much to so many,” Brad Shaw said. “He enjoyed when others could be in the spotlight, and he just happened to be my dad.”