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Fortes, Joe

Welcome to the Vancouver Lexicon. Its purpose is to pin down the patois of the City of Vancouver by recording its toponyms, nicknames, slang terms, personalities, places, and other Van-centric things. Full A-Z here.

Joe Fortes | Vancouverite | A figure of legend and our city’s first official lifeguard. Born in Trinidad in 1863, the beloved Fortes settled here in 1885, living in the West End near English Bay. He was a fixture on that beach for over 30 years, teaching countless young children to swim and saving over two dozen lives. After his death on February 4th, 1922, he was honoured with the largest funeral procession Vancouver had ever seen. Today, his name and friendly visage live on in a popular restaurant, an animated film (see below), and upon a stamp celebrating Black History Month.

Usage | “It’s a testament to how special Joe Fortes was that so few in the century since his death have measured up to his respect and renown.”


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  1. One of my annoying reflexes is pedantically correcting people who call the restaurant “Joe Forté’s” and point out his name was Fortes.

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