Murray Phillips made an imprint on the art community in Langley, but as a philanthropist also touched many other local hearts. (Langley Advance files)

VIDEO: Langley bids adieu to renowned wilderness artist and philanthropist

A service is being held at White Rock Baptist Church this afternoon for the late Murray Phillips.

“It is my deep desire to understand and paint the wilderness with a knowledge and skill that communicates that I have been there. I want my art to celebrate the beauty I encounter in nature and to heighten the significance of preserving the wilderness.”

These were words Murray Earl Phillips lived by.

A service is underway this afternoon for the long-time Murrayville resident, once prominent Langley City business owner, and renowned Canadian artist.

That thick-bearded artist from Langley, who resembled a blend between Santa or Grizzly Adams, and had a similarly gentle soul and kind heart, passed away at age 74 of a brain tumor.

Murray was best known for his copious paintings of the western Canadian wilderness.

He would spent several months each year camping in isolation, wanting to be one with nature that he would then capture on canvas.

He was also a father of three and grandfather of eight.

He lost his beloved wife of 46 years, Betty, to cancer in June 2013.

While he was a painter for more than 50 years, he worked at it full-time for that past 20-plus year.

Prior to focusing on his art, he spent much of his life in the halls of academia, first seeking his graduate degree in theology, culture, and anthropology. Then later, he taught in a variety of colleges and universities.

He passed away last week in Langley Hospice, the very organization he helped raise thousands for through the years. He created the West Fine Art Show in 2009. It has since grown to be an art show and sale that is hosted three times a year – each in different locations and each for different charities.

It’s a very sad time, said Shannon Todd Booth, the communications and funds development manager for hospice, calling Phillips’ passing a “tremendous loss” for Langley.

“I had the opportunity to meet Murray shortly after I accepted my role here at the Langley Hospice Society, when he approached us to partner with the West Fine Art Society to host an annual art show, in memory of his late wife Betty and in support of the hospice society,” she reflected.

“He was a strong supporter of the Langley Hospice Society and through his own sharing and the West Fine Art Show, he helped provide an opportunity to engage the broader community in conversation about the importance of palliative and bereavement care and support,” Todd Booth elaborated.

“Our community has lost a special man, and my heart goes out to his wife, Evelyn, his family, and friends and all who knew him. I know I am one of many in a large and eclectic circle who will miss this kind, intelligent man, and I feel honoured to have known him and to call him a friend.”

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• See related story: Twenty-three artists rally to help homeless Langley students

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