Thank you, Papa

Terry Wallace helped build this community

It is nearly impossible to visualize what Vancouver’s gay and lesbian community would be like today if not for Terry Wallace.

It is almost as hard to summarize the man’s contributions. Longtime bar owner Gary Penny-one of Wallace’s best friends-remembers Wallace as one of the gay community’s first fundraisers when the AIDS epidemic struck, and among the earliest supporters of current institutions such as the West End Slo-Pitch Association and Meals on Wheels.

Penny describes Wallace as a spirit kindred to himself, a tireless worker who ensured tasks were paid for and completed, and who never sought credit for his work.

“I never had a father. It was like having an older brother in life,” says Penny, his voice expressing fatigue from the preparations for his friend’s memorial. “He meant everything to me.”

Wallace had been suffering from multiple health problems for years. On Feb 1 at noon, he died in St Paul’s Hospital from pneumonia arising from other medical complications. Wallace had been suffering from cancer as well, Penny says.

Wallace leaves behind his partner of 15 years, Jay Gerard Brenston. He knew Wallace like no other: while friends will cite Wallace’s stoicism, Brenston was privy to the human side of a man who seemingly acted as a rock for the comfort it gave others.

“He was a strong man. He was an actor,” recalls Brenston. “He was an actor who put up a strong face, but shook his head in private and said, ‘Why do people have to go through this?'”

Brenston says Wallace even tried to keep the gravity of his health problems to himself until his last days.

“He was a kind, giving man. He gave of himself, and he opened doors for the public.”

After financial problems sunk the Gay Unity Week committee in 1983, Wallace was one of the key leaders who stepped in to form the Pride Week Coordinating Committee to save the young festival. He made sure the Pride committees had money. His fundraising savvy was legend.

Little Sister’s owner Jim Deva, also a key organizer in the 1980s, says Wallace was the vital link with the business community. Wallace was a founding member of what would become the Gay and Lesbian Business Association. Deva describes Wallace’s golden reputation in the business community as one of Pride’s greatest assets.

Wallace did not voice grand dreams. What he had was wisdom and common sense: the rare ability to see what was needed, to set realistic goals, and then to fulfill them. With that outlook Penny found a brother-in-arms.

Wallace, like Penny, was a venerated lifetime member of the Pride Society. He remained razor sharp until the end. In early 2003 Wallace and Penny played pivotal roles in calling public attention to financial and procedural irregularities that threatened Pride’s very existence.


In the 1970s and 1980s Wallace managed the iconic pub, The Castle. He was also manager of The Royal Hotel when it was a gay bar (“he made the Royal” according to Penny) and later in life, The Metropole Pub.

As a bar manager Wallace made an impact. Deva says Wallace really set the standard for business operators who balanced success with helping to build a strong community. Non-profit groups and sports organizations always had a home in Wallace’s Castle, Deva remembers-and he used the bar as a fundraising centre.

“He was always behind the bar. He always had something good to say to you. Myself, I normally got the first beer for free,” Deva recalls of days before they knew each other well.

Wallace’s “Papa” moniker, reports Penny, stems from the Castle era. Even then Wallace was recognized as the community’s elder statesman, with his trademark deep, gravelly voice that could fill a room.

“He was never scared to speak his mind about things when they were wrong,” Penny says. “The other big lesson he taught: speak out when you know it’s wrong.”

Wallace received the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2000 at the Community Achievement Awards gala sponsored by Xtra West.

Wallace is survived also by his brother Bob and sister Pat.

Friends and family will hold a memorial service for Terry Wallace on Monday, February 9, 10:30 am at St Paul’s Anglican Church, 1130 Jervis. Wallace loved flowers.

Read More About:
Culture, TV & Film, Power, Vancouver

Keep Reading

Job discrimination against trans and non-binary people is alive and well

OPINION: A study reveals that we have a long way to go to reach workplace equality for trans and non-binary people

The new generation of gay Conservative sellouts

OPINION: Melissa Lantsman’s and Eric Duncan’s refusals to call out their party’s transphobia is a betrayal of the LGBTQ2S+ community

Over 300 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills have been introduced this year. This doesn’t mean we should panic

OPINION: While it’s important to watch out for threats, not all threats are created equally. Some of these bills will die a natural death

Xtra’s top LGBTQ2S+ stories of the year

The best and brightest—even most bewildering—stories from a back catalogue brimming with insight