7 Things you did not likely know about Joe Fortes

If you’ve been in Vancouver a while, you might hear the name Joe Forte, which many associate with a restaurant Joe Fortes found on Thurlow Street between Robson and Alberni. (They have a good lunch special by the way.) There’s also a library named after him.

However, Seraphim “Joe” Fortes was the Vancouver Park Board’s first lifeguard. When I happened upon an article about him in BC Magazine‘s Spring 2011 edition, I was fascinated to find that the Canadian immigrant experience is old than we thought. Consider these 7 facts about Joe Forte.

  1. Born Barbados 1865
  2. Mixed African/European parentage
  3. Lived in Liverpool England until age 17.
  4. Emigrated to BC in 1885.
  5. In the 1890s, he taught swimming for free in English Bay and performed duties of a lifeguard. He was very popular with kids.
  6. Worked until his death from pneumonia in 1922 with 29 saved lives to his credit.
  7. Alexandra Park in English Bay has a memorial drinking fountain for him.

It sounds like Joe had a life worth having lived and I’m glad we remember him.

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