902 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2021
man and comedian on Japanese television and ambassador positions at
Expos in Osaka and Okinawa—rare antecedents indeed, even for the kaleidoscope
of entrants to first-year law.
Wilf’s charismatic allure allied with his natural cordiality and wonderful
sense of humour soon found him many friends through the three years at
law school. The firm bonds made with many of his classmates were so cherished
and precious as to last until the very end, even until the final, eventually
heartrending “Hey, bud” e-mail or phone call.
Wilf and Takako were married during the final year of law school, with
delightful ceremonies in both Canada and Japan. Underlying all that followed
was Wilf’s dedication to his family: his devoted wife and their children,
Tara and Conan, and their five grandchildren.
Following graduation and articling at what was then the firm of Ray Connell,
Wilf was called to the B.C. bar in 1980. This was a time when the Japanese
economy was performing magnificently and appeared ready to go into
overdrive. Much Japanese investment money was seeking opportunities
abroad. Many Japanese manufacturing companies were seeking foreign
sources of supply—remember Quintette Coal? There seemed to be an endless
horizon for legal work to service the needs of Japanese clients entering
what was to them a foreign and relatively unknown legal environment. And
Wilf Wakely would become the ideal lawyer to meet those needs—this,
indeed, was his “plan”. For those of us fortunate enough to witness the phenomenon,
his capacity to put Japanese clients almost immediately at ease
and have them gratefully repose in him their trust and confidence was a
wonder to behold. His natural mien of intelligence, self-confidence and
wit—which, with ever a twinkle in his eye, he never lost—and his effortless
and eyebrow-raising fluency in the Kansai-ben dialect of Osaka combined
with disarming effect.
Those were years of very hard work for a young lawyer with a young family.
Yet, as a remarkable insight into his unique character, we note that
somehow Wilf found time in the late evenings to retreat to his basement in
his home in West Vancouver to build, to exacting maritime museum standards,
a magnificent model of a North Atlantic salvage tug, the Foundation
Franklin, whose deep-sea wartime missions from Halifax were the subject
of Farley Mowat’s The Grey Seas Under. Go figure. Not to mention that he
obtained his private pilot qualifications to boot (in both Canada and Japan).
Wilf moved on to Davis and Company. In the mid-’80s, he accepted
Department of External Affairs postings to Japan as press officer then legal
officer, principally engaged in the redevelopment of the Canadian Embassy
in Tokyo, and also dealing as liaison and translator for many visits by
Canada’s ambassadors to Japan. Here is Wilf’s recollection of one such visit: