Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sad News: Chuck Davis announces he is dying of incurable cancer

I first learned of Chuck Davis when I arrived in Vancouver in the early 70's, and subsequently had the honour of meeting him on a number of occasions. Most recently, we served together on the Board of Governors of the Vancouver Jewish Historical Society. No, he's not Jewish, but he is so in love with the history of our city, he agreed to be a historical expert on the Board. Last week all the other Governors received a personal note from him advising that he was having to step down since "I've been diagnosed with an incurable cancer, and have no energy at all. The oncologist says I should have "a good year," but a bout of pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs) has made me so short of breath that a walk across the room exhausts me."

During the Jewish High Holy days I mentioned to a few people that I had received this note from Chuck and I hoped that something might be done to recognize his incredible contribution to the city, and help raise some money that is need to finish his current 'book'. I say book in quotes since it really is an on-line encyclopaedia of the city and region.

I am pleased that the Vancouver Sun, Jeff Lee and Michael Klassen have now brought public attention to Chuck's situation (see below) and I am hoping that the City of Vancouver will soon formally recognize Chuck's contributions with a Civic Honour. Gordon Price and I are also starting to plan a Fundraising Event within the coming weeks to raise the necessary funds. More details about this shortly.

In the meanwhile, here is the touching dedication in his 1997 Greater Vancouver Book.

This book is dedicated to my father, George Davis (1905 to 1969). With virtually no formal education, but blessed with unquenchable curiosity, he became a constant reader. When I was a list loving kid, he told me one day, "Charlie, one of these days you're going to make a list of all your lists." He would have loved the Greater Vancouver Book. Chuck Davis 1997

Chuck, in the coming days, weeks, months, and hopefully years, I hope that you will get a sense of just how much thousands of Vancouverites appreciate all you have done for preserving the history of our city.

For anyone who has ever wondered about the history of Vancouver, the name Chuck Davis is no mystery. His books, The Vancouver Book and The Greater Vancouver Book, are essential bibles for those who are interested in the history of our region.
As recently as this week I turned to one of Chuck's books to confirm a distant recollection that the troubled Electra Building at Burrard and Nelson Streets was in fact the former head office of both BC Hydro and its forerunner, B.C. Electric.
Davis' penchant for details, both arcane and important, has been a hallmark of not only good journalism, but also of historical research.
I read with considerable sadness, therefore, that Chuck has incurable cancer and, by his count, has mere weeks or months to live.
Of course, the news could not have come at a more inopportune time, not that there is ever one for dying. He's smack in the middle of his latest book project, a history of Metropolitan Vancouver, and he's not going to get a chance to finish it.
He's looking for someone to take the project over and finish it; by his estimate it will take another $30,000 and a year to complete.
You can read the story here. Mike Klassen over at has also posted a note on his site. Chuck can be reached at

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