Famous Dutch businessman Harry Steele dies

Famous businessman Harry Steele died on Friday. Steele is seen here next to an Eastern Provincial Airline Boeing 737 (Submitted by Fred Lagan)

Famed Newfoundland and Labrador businessman Harry Steele died on Friday.

Steele was known for his successful ventures in various industries, including transportation, hotels, and radio.

“This is definitely the passing of a great Newfoundlander,” said Fred Langan, director of Langan Business News and author of the 2019 biography. The Commander: The Life and Times of Harry Steele.

Fred Langan is the author of The Commander: The Life and Times of Harry Steele. (Submitted by Fred Lagan)

Although Steele’s life eventually reached great heights in the business world, Langan said Steele had humble beginnings when he was born in Musgrave Harbor in 1929.

Steele continued his education at Memorial University, Langan said, before joining the Navy and working in military intelligence in Gander.

It was during Steele’s time in the Navy that he began to turn his attention to business ventures.

“When he was in the Navy, [Steele] invested in the stock market,” Langan said.

Steele’s wife, Catharine, had a similar entrepreneurial spirit with real estate investments, and the couple purchased the Albatross Hotel in Gander around the same time.

Percy Farwell is the mayor of Gander. He says Harry Steele was an icon in the community. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Gander Mayor Percy Farwell says Steele “helped shape the future and history of Gander.”

He says Steele was “larger than life, […] but he was a very nice man. And on a much larger scale, Steele was an iconic and influential businessman in a number of areas and he lived [in Gander], and has always made it his home. The house he lived in, he still owned and maintained.”

Steele’s impact on the community is commemorated in the town’s community center, Farwell said, which bears his name.

Langan said Steele’s business success in Gander eventually led to the purchase of Eastern Provincial Airways (EPA) in the 1970s. Langan said after Steele discovered the airline was for sale, “he met [airline owner Chesley] Crosby and on a cocktail napkin they wrote out a purchase contract.”

Harry Steele with his son Rob Steele. (Courtesy of Newfoundland Capital Corporation Limited)

After a contentious pilots’ strike was resolved, the airline was a success for Steele.

“He made Eastern Provincial Airways successful,” Langan said.

EPA then merged with CP Air and Steele “expanded its business” in several different directions, according to Langan, including radio.

“Harry didn’t like rock and roll music,” Langan said, “but his son Rob convinced him.”

Langan said the move to radio was a success, and Steele’s holding company became the owner of over 100 radio licenses.

In 1992 Steele was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His many business interests included a shipping company, a port in Halifax, and a number of fishing lodges in Labrador.

“His hobby was fishing,” Langan said, describing the camps the Steele family owned in Labrador. But “as someone once said, Harry didn’t fish salmon so much as he fished for business”.

Langan said Steele often brought notable guests to the camps to go fishing with him, including United States President George HW Bush.

Harry Steele fishing in Labrador, with his guest US President George HW Bush. (Submitted by Fred Lagan)

Langan says Steele attracted such high-profile guests because of who he was behind the public eye.

“Harry was a lovely, down-to-earth, but tough person.”

In a tweet Saturday, Premier Andrew Furey said Steele’s passing “is a sad day for our province. Very few have shaped the fabric of NL like Harry Steele.”

Furey said his thoughts are with Steele’s family “at this difficult time”.

Fred Lagan’s biography on Harry Steele was published by Dundurn Press in 2019. (Submitted by Fred Lagan)

Langan said Steele “was very close to his family” and will be remembered as “a major business figure in Atlantic Canada.”

“He was a man of the people. He came from very humble beginnings and made himself a huge success. And he never forgot who he was. Never. Harry Steele was always a down-to-earth shooter “, did he declare. .

Langan said Steele will be remembered as one of Atlantic Canada’s great businessmen and his legacy shows “that the people of Atlantic Canada, and Newfoundland in particular, can have no problem succeeding .”

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