It was a wonderful evening – it was a very difficult evening.
Last Saturday, June 4, 2016 was the 60th reunion for the UBC Law Class of 1956 of which I was one.
It was difficult because we couldn’t and didn’t want to forget all those classmates we have lost; it was a wonderful evening because of those who were very much alive and with us, fortified by memories of those who’ve passed.
It’s impossible to define or understand why some classes are extraordinary. I think most will have extraordinary individuals but the class of 1956 is generally considered to be one of a kind. We only graduated 56 and while it’s difficult to know for sure, it would appear that about 35 of us are still alive, all over 80.
Out of those 56, 14 became judges with 2 on the BC Court of Appeal. We had 2 Cabinet ministers and a Leader of the Opposition, who was and is our leading counsel in my opinion. Tom Berger, who also was a Supreme Court Judge, a Commissioner of several important Royal Commissions, and most famously, leading counsel in a number of First Nations cases including the famous 1973 Calder case, is still very active in Supreme Court of Canada work and is awaiting a critical decision right now.
(Incidentally, I’m omitting QC’s – if I can’t have one, nobody else can, so there.)
I sat next to Brent Kenny, and wife Becky. Brent was the baby of the class but only just, as it turned out he was born on the same day and in the same hospital, VGH, as was David Hossie, Dave being born 20 minutes earlier!
Mr. Justice Duncan Shaw was next to him, an old friend, and fellow PW -ite who’s older brother Jimmy has been a small claims judge forever, and whom I’ve known forever and whose gorgeous sister, Lois was a grade ahead of me. I distinguished myself by talking at some length to a lady I was sure was our Gold Medalist, Rendina Hamilton (sister of Dave Hossie) until I realized that it wasn’t Rendina but Duncan’s lovely wife, Pat!
The Bergers, Bev and Tom were there as were Mark and Betty Soule. Mark, after I was fired from CJOR in 1984, offered me a job with his law firm and though I didn’t take it, the boost to my morale at a time I was so low, had a hugely positive influence on my radio career which revived shortly thereafter.
Hamish and Arlene Cameron were there and Hamish, one of the most talented men I know, whether in law or the theatre, who may look a tiny bit older (unlike me) has not lost a particle of his wittiness.
I was delighted to see Cory and retired Supreme Court Justice Bob Hutchison whose dad, the great journalist and author Bruce Hutchison, has an award in his name, the Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award given annually by the Jack Webster Foundation, which I was proud to receive in 2003.
I had a chance to chat with former BC Court of Appeal justice Tom Braidwood, without question one of Canada’s best counsels, there with his wife Phyllis and his former partner, Graeme Mackenzie and wife Heather. Both Tom and Graham were partners with the famous criminal lawyer, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justice, Angelo Branca.
Tony Jasich with Lisa Dick were there as were Reg and Marlene Poole, whom I hadn’t seen since our 50th and all have weathered the decade nicely.
George Rapanos, one of our famous Greek Row, was there with his wife Joan, as was our resident English gentleman, John Spencer and his wife Joan. John, to no one’s surprise, became a distinguished Supreme Court Judge.
Derek Standfield, like Dunc and me, a former PW grad (another PW grad in our class, Malcolm Wickson, has passed on) was there with his lovely wife Carol.
I come now to our esteemed Law Undergraduate Society leaders.
Chuck Lew was known for taking the most legible notes in the class making him particularly popular with class skippers, of whom there were many. He ran on the slogan that he would bring colour to the council and became our much loved treasurer. He was there on Saturday night, wearing a kilt, indicating his long association with the Chinatown Lions Club and their famous Robbie Burns Night. Chuck doesn’t look all that Scottish to me but then, what the hell do I know?
Stuart Clyne, whose family and mine have known each other for eons, has been in my life at kindergarten, along with former mayor Pip (as we continue to call him) Owen, Qualicum Beach School For Boys Summer Camp in 1940, St. Georges School and the class of 1956. No brighter than me, for example, he was a hell of a lot more popular and parlayed that into the presidency. A lifetime jock, he and his lovely wife Meg drove Wendy and me down and back and last week, being a bit concerned, I asked Chuck if Clyne would be off the rugby field in time to pick us up. Many thanks, Stu and Meg.
If I’ve left anyone out it’s either because I bear them a grudge, likely something to do with the Georgia Beer Parlour or The Arctic Club, or our treasurer, from whose list I worked, screwed up, and one reason is as likely as the other.
It was a wonderful class and I suspect that each and every one of us would say that it’s been a constant influence in our lives. None of us could forget those who have gone before us but they sure haven’t left our memories judging from the conversations. As I said at the start, it’s impossible to explain the dust sprinkled on us from on high, but speaking for myself (and dammit this is my blog) saying that I was in the Class of 1956 has always felt like boasting.
The only contribution I made to the law was passive in that I was sued for libel, defended by able counsel paid for by others, won at trial, lost 3-0 in the Court of Appeal then with a full court sitting, won 9-0 in the Supreme Court of Canada which changed the law to do it. My sole contribution was implying the plaintiff was acting like Hitler.
That questionable contribution on my part has been more than made by up for by my classmates whom I love, indeed revere, and hope they will be with me in 2026 to celebrate our 70th.
(What the hell, I’ll only be… carry the 1…)
See ya then gang!