Thursday, February 09, 2017

Black History Month: Joe Fortes

Today's Dictionary of Canadian Biography feature is Sherry Edmunds-Flett's biography of Joe Fortes (b 9 February 1863), the man who once taught most of Vancouver to swim -- and who today is remembered by a waterfront fountain and a Vancouver steak and seafood restaurant
Known to be clean, sober, and an expert mixer of cocktails, he was most famous, however, for his volunteer work as a swimming instructor and lifeguard. He was a common sight at English Bay beach, where he taught thousands of children to swim. It was not until around 1897 that the city, in recognition of his services, put him on its payroll as a lifeguard; at some point he was also made a special police constable. He reputedly saved more than 100 people from drowning, including many children and several adults, among them John Hugo Ross, who would die in the sinking of the Titanic.
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