Lights come up for Sev Morin

Sev Morin, Bob Hope and Milt Wylie clown around for a charity golf tournament in 1963. - PHOTO CONTRIBUTED
Sev Morin, Bob Hope and Milt Wylie clown around for a charity golf tournament in 1963.
— image credit: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

The lights have come up on the life of former Burnaby restaurant and nightclub owner and social gadfly Sev Morin.

Morin passed away March 28. He was 86 years old.

Morin, along with his brother Rudy, was famously the owner of the old Gai Paree restaurant on Kingsway, which was originally started by his family in 1947. When Rudy was killed in a car accident in 1969, Sev took the reins on his own. The restaurant was later known as Severin's. It closed in 1994.

Before stepping into the family business, Morin cut his teeth in the hospitality industry alongside Nat Bailey at White Spot.

"The mentoring from Mr. Bailey was the key thing," said Morin.

He also met his wife, Pauline, at the Gai Paree where she was a part-time banquet waitress. A customer had asked her the score of the Canucks-New Westminster Royals hockey game and Morin happened to be listening to it on the radio so she got the update from him. They married in 1950 and settled down on Olive Street, near Central Park.

Morin was a close friend of broadcaster Jack Cullen's  and a member of his "Howe Street Social Club," a collection of "virtually anybody who was in showbiz locally" in the 1950's, 60's 70's and 80's, said former CKNW newscaster John Ashbridge. That allowed him to hobnob with some of the entertainment industry's biggest names when they rolled through Vancouver, including Bob Hope.

"It was different times," said broadcaster Red Robinson. "There weren't gatekeepers preventing you from getting to know the stars. You'd become friends with them."

Morin was also close to the Fox family in South Burnaby and mentored young Michael J. as he embarked on his acting career. He was instrumental in getting his old friend to lend his name to the Michael J. Fox Theatre at Burnaby South secondary school when it was built in 1995.

In 2011 Morin was tapped by the owner of Lafflines comedy club in New Westminster, Barry Buckland, to help bring in names when he relaunched in the old Columbia Theatre.

"He knows everybody," said Lafflines' talent and event manager James Lickers at the time.

Morin was also supportive of young athletes like boxer Dale Walters and local sports teams held banquets and reunions at his restaurant. The walls were plastered with photos of teams he sponsored.

In the 1980's Morin's club became a hangout for visiting NHL players after games at the Pacific Coliseum in East Vancouver. He served as the chair of Burnaby's 2010 Olympic Legacy committee.

Morin was also a member of the Senate at Simon Fraser University, a liaison officer for the Burnaby Board of Trade and served on a number of boards of directors, including the Downtown Business Improvement Association in New West.

"He did a lot of work behind the scenes," said Ashbridge who praised Morin for his ability to build relationships and forge connections. "He was genuine. He was always in the best of spirits."

In 2002 Morin received a Local Hero award from the City of Burnaby and the following year he was awarded a Queen's Jubilee medal.

A celebration of Morin's life will be held Sat., April 12, at the café at Willingdon Church from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

- With files from Grant Granger


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