News Headline: Wedgewood Hotel Owner Eleni Skalbania dead at 70
Outlet Full Name: The Vancouver Sun
Author Name: Matthew Robinson
VANCOUVER — Eleni Skalbania will best be remembered by those who barely knew her as the driving force behind Vancouver’s Wedgewood Hotel and Spa.
For those a little more familiar with her name, she may be remembered as a generous philanthropist and long-standing fundraiser for charities including the B.C. Cancer Foundation.
But those who were closest to her will remember her as a caring mother, wife, and devoted grandmother who put family before anything else.
On Saturday, at the age of 70, Eleni Skalbania died after a battle with lung cancer.
Skalbania’s youngest daughter, Elpie Marinakis Jackson, described her mother as “a remarkable woman.”
When Skalbania and her first husband Angelos Marinakis first came to Canada from the Greek island of Santorini, life was challenging, according to Marinakis Jackson. The young immigrant mother, who did not yet speak English, struggled to raise her daughters without the help of friends or family while at the same time working a string of different jobs.
But it was after Skalbania married her second husband, Nelson Skalbania, a wealthy and at times controversial real estate mogul, that perhaps her greatest challenge would begin — becoming a hotelier in a male-dominated field.
After taking on roles at the Devonshire Hotel and the Hotel Georgia, Skalbania acquired a lodging house on Hornby near Robson from Joe Segal in 1984 and decided to take it upscale. It became the Wedgewood.
Such is the calibre of Skalbania’s hotel — now a member of the Relais & Chateaux Association — that in 2012, Condé Nast Traveler magazine readers rated the Wedgewood the best stay in Canada and 12th best in North America. Travel & Leisure magazine readers have ranked it as Canada’s best hotel value, and fifth best in the world.
“The legacy my mother has left behind is evident by the high regard and affection that her entire staff, both past and present, have for her,” said Marinakis Jackson.
After Skalbania retired from her role at the top of the industry, Marinakis Jackson took on the role of managing director at the Wedgewood.
In her spare time, Skalbania liked to cycle. She and her husband would tour Europe by bicycle with friends, and at home with her daughter and Wedgewood’s general manager Philip Meyer, a former professional racer.
Skalbania spent a great deal of energy raising money for charities, most significantly the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Earlier this year, she donated $1 million to the foundation to support lung cancer research.