Tag Archives: AIDS Calgary

Remembering Mark

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.

Mark Perry-Schaub (photo courtesy of his 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!

Mark in a still from AIDS Respect Yourself Protect Yourself

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…

{KA}

HIV Community Link at 35

{The Calgary Gay History Project is presenting a series on AIDS history reflecting on how Calgarians and Canadians reacted to this earlier pandemic. This installment was written by Project researcher, Tereasa Maillie.}

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Globe and Mail excerpt from April 20, 1984

HIV Community Link has been active in the Calgary community providing support and education for over 35 years as a registered society. Its roots were in the early 1980s epidemic reaching Calgary, and little information was available to help people combat this deadly virus. Homophobia, prejudice, and discomfort around the ways HIV was transmitted blocked discussion and treatment.

In response, gay and lesbian activists first met in late 1983 to decide on a plan of action, and join together to advocate for infected people. AIDS Calgary Awareness Association was born, and according to activist Doug Young’s personal notes, the first meetings were about the legal fight for people who were HIV positive. They were not alone: Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver had also started their own chapters based on the many groups that had begun in the USA.

Known as AIDS Calgary, the group registered as a society on October 9, 1985. Their first office was at #300, 1021 – 10th Avenue S.W. and staffed by a core group of volunteers under Doug Morin, the first Executive Director. Money was tight, but LGTBQ2 organizations such as the Imperial Sovereign Court of the Chinook Arch donated funds and held community events. In the 1990s, AIDS Calgary began hosting their own signature fundraiser called Calgary Cares. The special event included silent auctions of local fashion designers’ clothes, a stage show, and dinner. The AIDS Walk and Run started 25 years ago; it has raised approximately $1.8 million to fund the agency and its services in Calgary.

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Doug Morin – Executive Director of AIDS Calgary, Dec. 1986. Photo source: University of Calgary Digital Archives

With this help, AIDS Calgary was able to expand their outreach and advocacy, including their hotline and newsletters: Ellipse, 360 degrees, and AIDS Calgary News. Part of their advocacy work was to lobby the government to fund research, promote health programs, and help end the stigma surrounding HIV positive people in Canadian society. In two National AIDS conferences (1985 in Montreal and 1986 in Toronto), AIDS Calgary joined with other organizations to create the Canadian AIDS Society. The goal was to tap into a larger umbrella group’s powers of shared information, advocacy, and support for all members.

In 2013, AIDS Calgary Awareness Association changed their name to HIV Community Link, as they also offered programs and services in Medicine Hat and Brooks. Their focus remains “on health promotion, increasing access to testing, delivering effective harm reduction programs, and reducing the stigma associated with HIV.”

{TM}

AIDS vs. the ’88 Olympics

{The Calgary Gay History Project is writing a series about AIDS history reflecting on how Calgarians and Canadians reacted to this earlier pandemic.}

If you lived in Calgary in 1988, you would remember the heightened sense of reality and esprit de corps that was the Winter Olympics. It was a time of Hidy and Howdy, sun ice jackets, and the frequent repetition of Calgary’s Olympic colour palette: teal, purple, orange, red, and pink. It was also a time of AIDS.

Gay bus driver, Mark Perry-Schaub, was a volunteer driver for the Calgary ’88 Olympics Committee (OCO). For three years, he participated in transportation planning with the OCO but was ousted from his position in December 1987 when he informed them of his then-recent AIDS diagnosis. He fought to be reinstated and, when denied, took up his cause through local media. The 25-year-old Perry-Schaub was told by volunteer manager Paul Taylor that he could no longer work on the transportation committee because in case of a traffic accident, OCO did not want him to either administer first aid or bleed on anyone.

The media pressure worked. The OCO managed to find Perry-Schaub a different volunteer job after a significant amount of public scrutiny. The OCO’s press secretary Bill Payne said: “We have an obligation to minimize the risk at any time. Some might say it’s a slight risk, but at what point do you take action?”

Perry-Schaub told reporters after his closed-door meeting with OCO officials: “I would rather be in transportation where I was trained. In my opinion, I think OCO has over-reacted. I felt I’d been railroaded into a new position.”

AIDS Calgary Executive Director, Doug Morin, was critical of the OCO. He stated: “It’s a decision based on inaccurate and incomplete information. Mark is not a threat to himself, OCO staff, or volunteers. There’s no significant risk that can’t be dealt with through adequate precautions.” Morin also noted that the OCO refused an AIDS Calgary offer to provide educational materials to the organization.

A week after the meeting, the OCO offered Perry-Schaub the choice of a dozen new jobs. He selected a position in the main press centre’s video distribution office. It turned out that the job was the last big project of Perry-Schaub’s life; he died just a few weeks after the games concluded in February 1988.

Despite being weakened by illness, Perry-Schaub put in long hours in the media centre video library, distributing cassettes of Olympic events to journalists. “It was really important to him to be an Olympic volunteer,” said Terry Steward, manager of OCO information services and Perry-Schaub’s boss. He added that OCO officials had reservations about letting Perry-Schaub work in the media centre for fear that visiting journalists might complain – however none did, even after learning about his situation.

By mid-March, Perry-Schaub was admitted to hospital with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (his third bout). He died on April 1st, 1988. More than 200 people attended his memorial service, but his parents stayed away. They had disowned their son because he was gay.

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Mark Perry-Schaub’s panel (left), part of Section 24 from the Canadian Aids Memorial Quilt website.

When the AIDS memorial quilt made its stop in Calgary in July 1989, 14 local panels were added to the 1000 visiting ones. They were hung in layered sections in the Calgary municipal building atrium. One of the new panels was in tribute to Mark Perry-Schaub made by his friend Dave McKeen whom he had met at AIDS Calgary.

Perry-Schaub’s panel is adorned with a huge heraldic lion, draped with a banner bearing his name as well as the symbols of the Calgary Winter Olympics where, according to his friends, he had the time of his life.

{KA}