John Ernest Irving, who headed the New Brunswick-based Irving business empire with his brothers, died at the age of 78 on July 21 after a brief illness.
Typically known as Jack, he built much of the company infrastructure in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, becoming executive vice-president of Irving Oil and a director of all Irving businesses. He was responsible for and managed a number of Irving companies and was particularly associated with Ocean Steel and Strescon, leading suppliers of steel and architectural concrete in the region.
“Jack was a great brother and friend,” his brother J.K. Irving said in a statement. “We enjoyed many happy years growing up together at home and in the business. He will be greatly missed.”
Born in 1932, Irving graduated from Rothesay Collegiate School, Rothesay, N.B. in 1950 and attended Acadia University, Wolfville, N.S. from 1950 to 1952. At that point he decided to finish his studies with “the best professor in the Maritimes,” his father Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving, and joined the family business with father and brothers.
Irving was a member of the Order of Canada, a companion of the Order of The Business Hall of Fame, an inaugural member of the New Brunswick Business Hall of Fame, recipient of an honourary Doctorate of Letters from the University of New Brunswick and an honourary Doctorate in Civil Laws from Acadia University and is an Alumnus Honoris Causa of Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.
When he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2007, his decades of work fostering economic development throughout New Brunswick and the Atlantic region were recognized. The citation also said: “Notably, he led the restoration of heritage properties in Saint John, which helped revitalize the downtown core. He is also known as a generous philanthropist who has supported educational institutions and arts in the Maritimes.”
Irving was an active member of the congregation at Trinity Anglican Church in Saint John, where a visitation was held on Friday, July 23, 2010, and a funeral service was planned for Saturday, July 24. The rector, the Rev. Ranall Ingalls, said that he was “a very quiet and faithful” member of the church.
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne Heather Cameron “nee Farrer,” his children John Keillor Farrer Irving, Colin Dargarvel Irving, Anne Cameron I. Oxley and six grandchildren.