Howie Blessin died from oral cancer in 1998, and golfers continue to raise money in his memory at an annual tournament hosted by the Surrey-based company he founded and once co-owned. (submitted photo)

For a 20th year, golfers memorialize Surrey business owner killed by cancer

Annual tourney pays tribute to Howie Blessin, who wasn’t an avid golfer but employed people who are

For a 20th year, golfers will drive, chip and putt in Howie Blessin’s memory.

A memorial tournament is hosted annually by Oakmont Industries Ltd., a Port Kells-area business once co-owned by Blessin.

Howie wasn’t an avid golfer, but employees at the door manufacturer do play the game, and they launched a golf fundraiser in 1998, the year he died of oral cancer.

“Two or three guys from the shipping department asked if it was OK to do a golf tournament in his name, and that first year we had around 20 golfers out,” recalled Jim Blessin, Howie’s brother.

This year, the Howie Blessin Memorial Golf Tournament will be played Friday (Aug. 24) at the Meadow Gardens course in Pitt Meadows, a new location for the event.

The tourney has raised more than $337,000 for BC Cancer Foundation over the past 19 years, “helping fuel the latest breakthroughs in cancer research and care and bring new hope to families facing the disease,” according to the foundation.

Every year, more than 120 golfers now take part in the tournament.

“I run the putting contest and my wife golfs,” said Blessin, a former Surrey resident who now lives in Fort Langley.

Howie founded and co-owned Oakmont, which was sold to an American company following his death, Jim said. Other changes in ownership followed over the past two decades, including Jim’s control of the company for a time, and the tournament has kept going all along, he explained.

“It shows the respect and love of so many, not just family but suppliers and customers,” he noted. “Some of the biggest customers really support the tournament, which is great.… We have huge support form the customer base, not just suppliers.”

Blessin said the tournament continues to be a testament to how well-known and loved his brother was in the community.

“Howie had a zest for life that did not even fail when he was diagnosed with oral cancer,” he stated in a BC Cancer Foundation release. “He was an exceptional person who was always keeping everyone’s spirits up despite what he was going through. Every year, we tee off in honour of Howie.”

BC Cancer Foundation also benefits from the yearly Ride to Conquer Cancer, which rolls out for another year on Saturday, Aug. 25, starting at Cloverdale Fairgrounds. The two-day fundraiser involves a 200-kilometre ride by thousands of cyclists, from Surrey to Hope.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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