The History of Metropolitan Vancouver's

By Constance Brissenden
With additional research by Larry Loyie

The History of Metropolitan Vancouver Hall of Fame represents nearly 500 of the thousands of people who have contributed to the history of the lower mainland of BC. They come from all walks of life, all cultural backgrounds and all occupations. All of the Hall of Famers are now deceased, and we are proud to include a brief record of their accomplishments here. For the first time, Metropolitan Vancouver has a biographical directory that includes many individuals from communities overlooked in the past.

If you have suggestions for inclusion (remember the person must be deceased), please contact us HERE.

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

For Mayors of Vancouver, click here.


George Alexander Walkem Shipbuilder b. July 8, 1872, Montreal, Que.; d. Dec. 13, 1946, Burnaby, B.C. After graduating from McGill, he joined the Royal Engineers, serving in Egypt and Palestine. Moved to Vancouver in 1898. President of West Coast Shipbuilders, Vancouver Iron Works, West Coast Salvage and Construction and Gulf of Georgia Towing. Reeve, Point Grey (1923-24); MLA, Richmond-Point Grey (1924-28) and Vancouver from 1933 for a total of nine years. In 1946, lobbied B.C. “to improve the quality of cooking for public consumption” to increase tourism. His ashes were scattered over English Bay from the tug George A. Walkem.

Andy (Alfred) Wallace Burrard Shipyards founder b. 1865, Moricetown, Eng.; d. Jan. 1, 1929, North Vancouver. Son of a master shipbuilder, he first worked in Owen Sound, Ont. In 1894, started a small False Creek shipyard. By 1906, operated on the North Shore as Wallace Shipyards. By 1910, Burrard Drydock was well established. In 1921, built Princess Louise for CPR fleet, the first contract awarded to a local firm. During WWI, built merchant and naval vessels. Son, Clarence Wallace continued expansion. The company was one of the largest shipyards on the B.C. coast. In 1928, built St. Roch, now exhibited in Marine Museum, Vanier Park.

Clarence Wallace Shipbuilder, lieutenant-governor b. June 22, 1893, Vancouver; d. Nov. 12, 1982, Palm Desert, Calif. On leaving college, joined family business (see Andy Wallace bio). Served overseas (1914-16); wounded at Ypres. In 1918, secretary-treasurer of Burrard Drydock; in 1929, named president. In WWII, built North Sands and Victory ships and converted vessels for war use. Awarded CBE (1946). Acquired Yarrows Ltd. of Esquimalt (1946), Pacific Drydock (1951) and shipbuilding operations of Victoria Machinery Depot (1967). In 1972, the Wallace family sold Burrard Drydock to Cornat Industries of Vancouver. Lieutenant-governor (Oct. 2, 1950-55).

Isy Walters Business Entrepreneur/Night Club Owner.  b. , 1909, Odessa, Russia.; d. March 7, 1976, Vancouver. Owner of several nightclubs in Vancouver and Victoria, Isy (born Isadore Waltuck) brought many of the largest entertainment acts and revues to British Columbia.  Isy was “Mr. Entertainment” after he got hooked on show biz at his first job of selling popcorn at the Empress Theater.  At the age of 14 he joined a traveling carnival, years later remained interested in carnivals and was even on the PNE board, as well as operated some carnival entertainment.  During WWII he owned and operated Acme Machinery, later sold to go back to his first love – show business. Along with son, Richard, Isy at various times owned the Avon Theatre, the State Burlesque House, The Cave, and Isy’s Supper Club in Vancouver and the Club Sirocco in Victoria from 1949 until his death.  Isy tried to revive Vaudeville at the Beacon Theatre, but gave up after 8 months.  The Cave and Isy’s were the two largest entertainment venues in the city, and they held the 1st and 3rd liquor licenses ever issued in B.C.

Jack Wasserman Columnist b. Feb. 17, 1927, Winnipeg, Man.; d. April 6, 1977, Vancouver. Came to Vancouver in 1935. Dropped out of law school to take reporter's job with Ubyssey. Graduated from UBC (1949); joined Vancouver Sun, becoming a police reporter. His biggest scoop was the sordid death of Errol Flynn in a West End apartment. Longtime gossip and self-described "saloon reporter" columnist. Hosted an open line program with CJOR; later hosted Hourglass on CBC TV. Fired by the Sun (1967) for hosting his radio show but rehired 18 months later. A governor of the National Film Board. Died of a heart attack while speaking at the Hotel Vancouver during a roast for Gordon Gibson Sr..

Rebecca Belle Watson Community activist b. c. 1911, Kitsilano; d. April 7, 1976, Vancouver. Taught in the Cariboo, then trained as a nurse at Vancouver General Hospital. In 1958, as spokesperson for Save Our Parklands Association, rescued the Shaughnessy Golf Course from development. Ran unsuccessfully as independent alderman (1961, 1962). Elected to Vancouver park board (1968). Executive member, TEAM; president, PC Party of B.C. (1971). A West End resident, she was active in its community associations. Named to City of Vancouver Civic Merit Board of Honor (The 22nd inductee in its 34-year history).

Rick (Richard Alan) Watson Disabled rights activist, writer b. April 14, 1953, Bowmanville, Ont.; d. April 30, 1994, Vancouver. Disabled by cerebral palsy, he was a Province columnist from September 1991, pecking out one letter at a time with a wand attached to a headband. Won a Canada 125 medal for his work for the disabled and a B.C. Newspaper Award for a column critical of telethons, one of which he'd appeared on as a child. Assigned to write on services for the disabled for The Greater Vancouver Book, but died suddenly. Active in B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD) as founding editor. Also wrote poetry. "His sense of humor offset the rage and despair he occasionally felt."

Agnes Watts Telethon angel b. 1899, Bunzlau, Germany; Oct. 30, 1989, Vancouver. At 19, came to Victoria to work as a nanny. Married a logger, and moved to Powell River; later divorced. Moved to Vancouver, married Isaac Watts in 1944 (d. 1952). First female employee of Scott Paper's New Westminster mill, "rolling toilet paper" for 22 years. Noted for frugality, she became a millionaire from stocks and real estate investments such as West End rooming houses. A patron of the Variety Club of B.C., she donated over $500,000 to children's projects. Received Variety Club Humanitarian Award from Prince Philip in London, Eng., in 1987. "Children were her great love."

William Watts Boat builder b. 1862, Collingwood, Ont.; d. May 8, 1954, West Vancouver. Came to Vancouver in 1887 with partner, Edward Trott. For three summers, they ferried miners up Harrison Lake. In 1889, opened a boat building business, Watts and Trott (later Vancouver Shipyards). Their firm built the city's first steamboat. A record-breaking rower, sailor, sport fisher and driver. In 1890, he won the B.C. rowing championship in a shell he built himself. "One of B.C.'s most colorful personalities since the turn of the century."

Gertrude Weinrobe First Jewish child born in Vancouver b. May 12, 1893, Vancouver; d. Aug. 9, 1975, Vancouver. Daughter of Barney Weinrobe, a Russian, and Sara Sarbesky, a German (m. Montreal, January 1884). In 1893, the family rode by train to Vancouver. On Feb. 13, 1893, three weeks after arriving, their eight-year-old son, Nathan, died of diphtheria, the first child buried in Mountain View's pioneer Jewish cemetery (Fraser and 37th). Gertrude, the first Jewish baby born in Vancouver, grew up in Vancouver Island mining towns where Barney ran stores. She received the 1971 B.C. Pioneer Centennial Medal. She was also buried in Mountain View.

George Moir Weir Education innovator b. May 10, 1885, Stonewall, Man.; d. Dec. 4, 1949, Vancouver. Entered politics in 1933 as a Lib. MLA. Named minister of education, serving for nearly a decade; also provincial secretary. In 1936, he pushed through health insurance coverage for those living on $1,800 a year or less. Although not passed because of opposition by doctors, it was the basis of the B.C. Hospital Insurance Act. Left politics in 1941; returned as minister of education (Vancouver Burrard, 1946), supervising radical changes in school curricula. Head of UBC education department. LL.D (UBC, 1948). George M. Weir School is named for him.

Frank Fairchild Wesbrook Bacteriologist, founding president of UBC b. July 12, 1868, Brant County, Ont.; d. Oct. 20, 1918, Vancouver. Graduated from U. of Manitoba (1890), followed by studies in London, Dublin and Marburg. Awarded a studentship at Cambridge (1892). At 27, he was asked to head the U. of Minnesota's pathology department; later dean of medicine (1906). Published hard-hitting papers on medical and general university education. A forerunner of F.G. Banting in diabetes research. Founding president of UBC (1913-18). Suffered a recurring illness attributable to Bright's disease.

Thomas Moore Whaun Political activist b. Oct. 22, 1893, Toisan, Canton, China; d. March 5, 1985, W. Vancouver. One of the first Asian residents of West Vancouver; second Chinese-Canadian graduate of UBC (BA, 1927). Emigrated to Canada from China in 1907. Worked in the newspaper industry as advertising manager for Canada Morning News and New Republic Daily, two of Vancouver's Chinese newspapers. Known for his nationwide letter-writing protest against the Chinese Exclusion Act. An altruist, he was committed to helping others. He became a Canadian citizen in 1950.

Edward White Pioneer Methodist cleric b. Nov. 11, 1822, Philadelphia, Penn; d. June 16, 1872, Montreal. Arrived from Smithville, Ont., on Friday, April 2, 1859, on the steamer Elisa Anderson. On Sunday, April 3, preached his first sermon, by the Fraser in Queensborough (New Westminster), with "The Lord, our God made a covenant with us in Horeb" as text. One woman (Mrs. James Kennedy) and 50 men were present. An "expert axman," Rev. White built a shack at Sixth and Carnarvon, site of Queen's Ave. United Church. Served as minister (1859-62, 1865-67). His son, Newton Arthur White was the first white child born in New Westminster (b. July 29, 1859; d. July 31, 1899, New Westminster).

Arthur Bryan Williams Game and forest warden b. c. 1867, County Clare, Ire.; d. Feb. 16, 1946, Vancouver. Came to B.C. in 1888 from London, Eng. In 1905, became a game and forest warden. Later, as game commissioner, he formulated B.C.'s game preservation and hunting laws, including one copied worldwide that protected a trapper's personal trap line from encroachment. Published Game Trails of British Columbia and Rod and Creel in B.C. and wrote a series of articles for the Vancouver Daily Province, c. 1926. An expert guide and “dean of B.C. hunters.”

M.Y. Williams (photo: Geological Survey of Canada)M.Y. Williams (Merton Yarwood Williams), professor of geology, was born near Bloomfield, Ontario June 21, 1883.

He graduated from Queen's University at Kingston in 1909 with a B.Sc. degree in mining engineering. He was granted the Ph.D. degree in 1912 and that same year joined the regular staff of the Geological Survey. In 1921 Dr. Williams accepted an appointment as associate professor of paleontology and stratigraphy at UBC. Together with Dean R.W. Brock, Dr. S.J. Schofield, and Dr. W.L. Uglow he helped to build UBC’s Department of Geology.

His teaching duties did not prevent M.Y. from continuing his work with the Survey, taking him to the Mackenzie River, the Franklin Mountains and the western great plains. In the mid-1920s he made a geological study of Hong Kong. He worked in the West Cariboo, West Lillooet Black and the Peace River area and published extensively. He was elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 1916, followed in 1926 by election to Fellowship in the Royal Society (of which he became president for 1960/1.)

In 1926, Dr. Williams became full professor of paleontology and stratigraphy at UBC, and in 1936 was appointed head of the Department of Geology and Geography. He remained at this post until his retirement in 1950. “He was a kind and understanding teacher and many of his students owe him not only the grounding in geology, but also support and encouragement in their later work in the graduate school and professional life.” See this site for more.

Dr. Williams died in Vancouver February 3, 1974, aged 90. “With his passing,” UBC says, “the university lost one of its original faculty members and the geology profession lost a pioneer in stratigraphic and petroleum exploration in western Canada.” (Chuck Davis)

Percy Alfred Williams Sprinter b. May 19, 1908, Vancouver; d. Nov. 29, 1982, Vancouver. Canada's leading track athlete of the 1920s; only Canadian to win two Olympic Gold Medals in track. Graduated from King Edward HS. Won 1928 Olympics in 100-metre and 200-metre races; world record holder 100 metre (1930-40); last ran in 1932 Olympics. After retirement, he ran an insurance business in Vancouver until his death by suicide.

Ethel Davis Wilson (née Bryant) Writer b. Jan. 20, 1888, Port Elizabeth, SA; d. Dec. 22, 1980, Vancouver. An orphan, she came to Vancouver in 1898 to live with her grandmother. Taught in public schools (1907-20). In 1921, married Dr. Wallace Wilson. Began writing in 1937; in 1947, her first novel, Hetty Dorval, was published. From 1947-57, she wrote four more novels, best known being Swamp Angel. Mrs. Golightly and Other Stories, her last published work, appeared in 1961, the year she received a special Canada Council medal for contributions to Canadian literature. Awarded D.Litt (UBC, 1955); Lorne Pierce Medal (Royal Society of Canada, 1960); Order of Canada Medal of Service (1970). B.C.'s top fiction prize is named for her.

Harold Edward Winch Politician b. June 18, 1907, Loughton, Eng.; d. Feb. 1, 1993, Vancouver. Son of labor leader Ernest Winch. Arrived in B.C. in 1910. Elected CCF MLA for working class riding of Vancouver East (1933-53). Leader of CCF (1938-53). Leader of the Opposition (1941-53). Came close to being premier in 1952-53. A bitter rival of W.A.C. Bennett, he coined the nickname "Wacky." Served as CCF/NDP MP, Vancouver East (1953-72). LL.D (UBC, 1973).

Richard Vance Winch Cannery pioneer b. 1862, Cobourg, Ont.; d. July 31, 1952, Vancouver. Ran away from home at 16, herded cattle and worked on CPR, arriving in B.C. in 1893. Established Canadian Packers Canning on the Fraser. In 1895, shipped first trainload of canned salmon from B.C. and sold first B.C. halibut in New York. In 1895, opened Queen Charlotte Fisheries. Owned seven canneries and a sawmill, valued at $1.6 million. Erected the Winch Building (739 W. Hastings) in 1909. Wife Isabelle e (b. Cobourg, Ont; d. Dec. 5, 1939, Vancouver) assisted his business activities for more than 50 years.

Calvin Winter Orchestra leader, theatre manager b. Auburn, Indiana; d. Feb. 5, 1946, Vancouver. Arrived in 1919 to play in Hotel Vancouver orchestra. One of the first radio conductors in the early 1920s. His band, Calvin Winter and His Capitolians, played for the Capitol Theatre opening in 1924. Operated Nelson's civic theatre, Vancouver's Music Box and Marpole Theatre in succession from 1936. Best known as conductor of Home Gas Sunday Symphony Hour at Malkin Memorial Bowl before WWII. "His death cut another name from the group whose musical light was bright in the days of the silent films, when theatres had their own live talent orchestras."

Gordon Sylvester Wismer Lawyer, attorney general b. March 23, 1888, Sutton, Ont.; d. Dec. 28, 1968, Victoria. Worked his way west, arriving in Vancouver in 1907. Began law practice in 1913 with Gerald G. McGeer. From 1922, ran his own firm, becoming one of B.C.'s best-known criminal lawyers. Elected Lib. MLA (Vancouver Centre, 1933). Served as attorney general under Pattullo from July 5, 1937; under Hart from April 4, 1946; and under Johnson until defeat of coalition government in 1952. Established New Haven Borstal School for Young Offenders (1938) and disbanded B.C. Police Force (1950), shifting policing duties to the RCMP.

Foon Sien Wong (aka Wong Mon Poo) Spokesperson for Chinese rights b. c. late 1890s, Canton; d. July 31, 1971, Vancouver. At 10, his family came to Vancouver Island and became well-off Cumberland, B.C., merchants. In 1911 met and was influenced by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Graduated from UBC; worked as legal interpreter and translator. In 1937, named publicity agent of Chinese Benevolent Association's (CBA) aid-to-China program during Sino-Japanese War. In 1945, pushed for vote for Chinese residents after war service. As president of Vancouver CBA (1947-59), pursued human rights issues, especially immigration laws. In the 1960s, led fight to stop the bulldozing of Strathcona's Chinese homes. "The unofficial mayor of Chinatown."

Freddie (Frederic Gordon Campbell) Wood University Players' Club founder b. Jan. 26, 1887, Victoria; d. June 3, 1976, Vancouver. McGill graduate (1910). Taught in Victoria, then attended Harvard (MA, 1915). First B.C.-born educator at UBC when it opened in 1915, retiring in 1950. Founded and directed University Players' Club (1915-31). Annually toured a student show across B.C., the only live theatre seen in many towns. Wife Beatrice (b. Nov. 29, 1899, Vancouver, d. July 18, 1992, Vancouver), was the daughter of lieutenant-governor John William Fordham-Johnson (1931-36). University Players' Club disbanded in 1966 after the launch of UBC's theatre department. D.Litt (UBC, 1971). Co-founder, Vancouver Little Theatre with E.V. Young. Frederic Wood Theatre is named for him.

George Woodcock Writer b. May 18, 1912, Winnipeg, Man.; d. Jan. 28, 1995, Vancouver. A literary intellectual in London, Eng., 1930s-1940s. Moved to B.C. in 1949. Taught at UBC. Founder/editor, Canadian Literature (1959-77). A prolific author of over 150 books, including The Crystal Spirit: a study of George Orwell and British Columbia, A History of the Province. Winner, Governor-General's Award (1966). D.Litt (UBC, 1977). First writer made Freeman of the City of Vancouver (1994). With his wife, Ingeborg, a Jewish refugee from the Third Reich, supported refugee causes and founded Tibetan Refugee Aid Society. Biblio: Letters to the Past; Beyond the Blue Mountains.

Steve (Stephen Francis) Woodman Entertainer b. Aug. 24, 1927, Saskatoon, Sask.; d. March 13, 1990, Vancouver. The "man of 1,000 voices" on popular radio and TV shows from CKUA Edmonton to WNBC New York. Interviewed Bing Crosby, the Beatles and the chimp, J. Fred Muggs. The first Ronald McDonald in L.A., where he hosted a TV show and performed in movies and award-winning commercials with legendary Mel Blanc. Moved to Vancouver in 1971. Appeared on network CBC as "Squeaky the Milk Elf" and wacky Dr. Bundolo (recorded live at UBC's student union building). Hosted CKWX's Steve's Place and Vancouver Variety Club telethons. After a 1974 telethon, a car accident on black ice nearly took his life and ended his career.

Frank Everett Woodside “Mining's Grand Old Man” b. Dec. 8, 1874, Hamilton, PEI; d. Oct. 14, 1954, Vancouver. A sixth generation Canadian, he left home at 16 to mine in Colorado and Rossland, B.C. As secretary, Western Federation of Miners, helped pass B.C.'s eight-hour-day bill (1898). Came to Vancouver in 1903. In 1910, lobbied to end Hastings Townsite's ties with Burnaby and join Vancouver. The vote was held at 2598 Eton, adjacent to Frank's home (2594 Eton, now a heritage site). First alderman for Hastings Townsite area (1911-28). Charter member, B.C. Chamber of Mines (1912); president (1922-28). In 1922, Big Frank began a winter night school for prospectors. A mountain in the Fraser Valley is named for him.

Charles A. Woodward Department store founder b. July 19, 1852, on a farm near Hamilton, Ont.; d. June 2, 1937, Vancouver. His first business venture was in a log cabin on Manitoulin Island, Ont. In 1891, visited Vancouver and bought two lots for a store, moving west in 1892. Woodward's drug department opened in 1895. In 1901, he took an option on a lot at 101 Hastings and incorporated as Woodward's Department Stores. The first store opened in November 1903. In 1910, it held its first one-price sale day, 25 Cents Day, a forerunner of $1.49 Day. Named to Canadian Business Hall of Fame (1966). Biblio: The Woodwards by Douglas Harker.

Chunky (Charles Nanby Wynn) Woodward Retailer b. March 23, 1924, Vancouver; d. April 27, 1990, Vancouver. Grandson of Charles A. Woodward and son of W.C. Woodward. In 1946, joined Woodward's Department Store. Fought in WWII with 12th Manitoba Dragoons. In October 1956, named president of Woodward's B.C. and Alberta chain. Involved in B.C. Place Stadium and Whistler Mountain developments. Worked with horses at his 220,000-hectare Douglas Lake ranch; established rodeo circuits across Western Canada. Received W.A.C. Bennett Award for sports contributions from B.C. Sports Hall of Fame (1986). Resigned as Woodward's president in 1988. The firm was purchased by The Bay in 1993.

William Culham Woodward Retailer, lieutenant-governor b. April 24, 1885, Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island, Ont.; d. Feb. 24, 1957, Hawaii. Came to Vancouver with father Charles Woodward. At 16, worked as a $15/month Royal Bank clerk. In 1908, joined Woodward's as bookkeeper. Served with First Canadian Heavy Artillery, then with Occupation forces (1916-18). Honorable colonel of 15th Field Regiment (RCA), 1932. During WWII, served without pay as executive assistant to munitions and supply minister C.D. Howe. Lieutenant-governor (Sept. 5, 1941-46). Ran Woodward Stores with brother Percival Archibald Woodward to 1956 when his son Chunky Woodward became president. That same year, named colonel at large of the militia, a rank created for him by defense minister Ralph Campney.

George Harvey Worthington Drug store chain founder b. c. 1876, on a farm near Guelph, Ont.; d. May 13, 1954, Vancouver. Ontario College of Pharmacy graduate (1898). Spent a year in New York as a drug clerk, then opened pharmacies in Guelph and Toronto. Graduated in medicine (U. of T, 1908). Came to Vancouver in 1909, working as a doctor to 1919 when he established Vancouver Drug Co. Alderman for Ward Six (1924-26), he founded the Vancouver Water District. In 1926, ran for mayor but lost to L.D. Taylor. Alderman (1940-44). Ran again for mayor but lost to J.W. Cornett. Retired in 1939, selling 23 drugstores to Cunningham's. In memory of two sons killed in WWII, he willed $100,000 to UBC.

Ben Wosk Furniture merchant b. March 19, 1913, Vradiavka (near Odessa) Russia; d. Jan. 24, 1995, Honolulu, Hawaii. Arrived at Vancouver in 1929 from Russia with his family. By 1932, he was dealing in old stoves from a small shop on Granville. Founded Wosk's Ltd. which owned and operated furniture and appliance stores, hotels and apartment buildings. With brother Abram (Abe) Wosk, the president of Schara Tzedeck synagogue, he chaired the synagogue’s Burn the Mortgage campaign in 1953. For his community work with the B.C. Heart Foundation, Vancouver Epilepsy Centre, Boy Scouts and other causes, The Native Sons of B.C. named him Good Citizen of the Year (1975). Member, Order of Canada (1978).

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