One of the moving aspects of working on local gay history is that—sometimes—the stories you are sharing of long dead activists come to life when living family members reach out and connect.
In April, I was writing a series about AIDS: reflecting on one pandemic while we move through another. I discovered the story of Mark Perry-Schaub, a thwarted Calgary ’88 Winter Olympics volunteer, who fought to regain his volunteer position after losing it, because he had AIDS.
After coming across the post, Ann—a relative—wrote to me. Mark died before Ann was born; this unknown Uncle left a haunting ache in Ann’s family.
Ann explained: “I’ve always been drawn to learning more about Mark, and talking about him. That’s why I contacted [his friend] Dave McKeen when I was 16, and attempted to contact Doug McKay, Mark’s friend who’d been his roommate and cared for him in the final months (unfortunately McKay died in 2005 when I was a toddler). I’ve written a number of essays on Mark, and AIDS in general, for school… I just always wanted to know more, like as much as is possible without being able to meet him. I think being LGBT+ myself results in me being even more interested, like he could have been such a great supportive figure in my life. We could have been close.”
Ann shared photos, news clippings, and fleshed out details of Mark from family stories. Mark, even appeared in an AIDS Calgary video: Respect Yourself Protect, Yourself. Although I had seen it before, I did not make the connection that the man named Mark in the video was Mark Perry-Schaub. What a surprise to see Mark animated again!
According to Ann, Dave McKeen told her that: “Mark had a heart of gold and even when too ill to really help, he was still volunteering his time and energy to help those in greater need; no one volunteered as much as he did.”
Mark died on April 1, 1988, aged 26, just weeks after the Calgary Winter Olympics concluded. His memorial service was held at the Metropolitan Community Church. Although his parents weren’t in attendance, his siblings were; it was a profound loss.
Ann shares, “it sounds like he was an amazing person. Of everyone, alive or dead, he’s the person I’d want to meet the most. I imagine he’d have been an awesome uncle.”
I think Ann is right…