Seraphim “Joe” Fortes

 February 9, 1863 – February 4, 1922

Seraphim “Joe” Fortes was one of the most notable early Black settlers in Vancouver, where he lived from 1885 to 1922. He was born in Barbados and arrived in Vancouver on a ship which he worked aboard. In Vancouver, Joe Fortes worked as a porter and bartender and moved into a small cottage on English Bay near Stanley Park. Later, he saved many lives and taught children how to swim after becoming English Bay’s first official life guard in 1901.

Joe Fortes was much-loved. The City of Vancouver honoured Joe in 1910 in appreciation of his work. Joe received his greatest accolade after he died and the City staged a public funeral attended by hundreds of friends and admirers. A fountain was also erected at Alexandra Park near his former home in the West End using funds raised by children of the city. The fountain shows Joe’s face above children splashing around in water and bears the inscription “Little Children loved Him.” The library on Denman Street in the West End also bears his name.

Joe Fortes link on Wikipedia: