Tag Archives: Mark Perry-Schaub

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}

 

More Tea and HiR developments

As Historian in Residence at the New Central Library, I serve tea weekly (weakly?) on Thursdays from 5-6 PM in room 414-A on the 4th floor. Last night we had Lois Szabo discuss the origins of Club Carousel, Calgary’s first gay bar. Lois was one of the club’s founders in the late ’60s and has been an active member of the community ever since. She was chosen to be our Pride Parade Marshall in 2017.

Lois in Herald

Lois Szabo at the 2017 Pride Parade: Calgary Herald Photo

Next week, on Thursday, December 20th, we have local representatives from the el-Tawhid Juma Circle, Calgary’s inclusive mosque space also known as Unity Mosque. The queer affirming mosque space was founded in Toronto almost ten years ago and has since spread to other Canadian cities. Their mission is to be compassionate, inclusive, gender equal and LGBTQ affirming. Please join us for tea!

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El-Tawhid Juma Circle Website

The library residency has proved to be very fruitful for research. I have been combing the pamphlet and clipping files in the library in the new Calgary’s Story section on the 4th floor.

For example, I discovered the story of Mark Perry-Schaub who was diagnosed with AIDS in July 1987 and subsequently lost his volunteer job with the Calgary ’88 Olympics Committee. He had been volunteering for three years prior to the diagnosis and fought publicly to be reinstated. He was successful in his fight and despite struggling with three successive bouts of pneumonia he was strong enough to work throughout the Games. He died two months later.

This week I met with three nieces of Everett Klippert whom I had not interviewed before. They shared stories of their Uncle Evie which were new to me, including a wedding with a woman whom he ran away from – the day before the wedding!

Last week, I interviewed Joey Sayer, who was instrumental in founding Lesbian and Gay Youth Calgary (LGYC) in the ’80s, as well as significant gay publications Modern Pink, and Alberta Gay & Lesbian Press (AGLP). Oral history interviews like these, are key sources for future stories on the Calgary Gay History Project website.

Joey Sayer

Kevin and Joey at the Historian In Residence Studio at the New Central Library

{KA}