Val Quan

IMG_20160114_0001 copy 10Late-breaking information on Val Quan (June 13, 2016): See comment from Bonnie, Val’s grand-daughter. She kindly provided some additional details. The information she supplied has been incorporated below. 

Val Quan (sometimes spelled Quon), his second wife, Pauline, and their family were fixtures around First Baptist Church for a number of years. Val was born in China in 1906, emigrating to Canada in 1921, when he was 15 years old. He settled initially in Moose Jaw, SK, where he worked in the National Café. He later spent time in Shaunavon, SK (pop. today is just over 1700); he was a member of First Baptist Church in Shaunavon.

In 1954, Val moved to Vancouver where he established his own café at the SE corner of Hamilton and Davie streets.* His café was in the heart of Yaletown, just steps from the CPR yards and the roundhouse.

Val and his first wife, May, were married in China. They had three daughters and one son, Robert, all born in China. The Chinese Exclusion Act, 1923-47, prevented Val from bringing his family to Canada. In 1950, when the Act was no longer in force, May came to Vancouver together with their two youngest kids, Jean and Robert.

May died of cancer in Vancouver six years after emigrating. Robert died 10 years later (1966) at age 18, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

Val re-married; it isn’t clear to me when he married Pauline. They had a family – Edward, Gordon, and Nancy. Edward (Eddie) is remembered by First Baptist member, Edna-May Slade, as being a “magnificent” pianist; all of the Quan kids are remembered by her as being “brilliant”.

Val died in 1988 at 81; Pauline later.

As is often the the case with immigrant names, Val’s surname did not survive the journey to Canada unscathed. They were known around the church (and by others who were not Chinese, no doubt) as the ‘Thing’ family. Mr. Quan’s given name was not Val. It was Sung Siu. Val was probably his choice of an ‘English’ name.

Although it is not at all unusual, today, to have people who are of Chinese origin (and of other ethnicities) among the members and adherents of FBC, it was a different story in the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, the congregation (and the population of Vancouver, generally) was nearly homogeneously white.

Sung Siu Quan and his family truly were pioneers at First Baptist Church.


*It’s possible that he moved his cafe to Smithe Street near Cambie at some point.

The text of this post was written originally for First Baptist Church’s 125th Anniversary (2011), as part of my series of brief biographies of former FBC members, titled Who Was Who in the Pews. It is reproduced here with a number of corrections, editorial changes, and additional details. The author especially appreciates the information provided by Val Quan’s grand-daughter, Bonnie.


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3 Responses to Val Quan

  1. Bonnie says:

    Val became a Christian much earlier than in Saskatchewan . Val’s 3 daughters that were born in China , approx 1926, 1929, 1936 attended an elite girls Christian school and attended church regularly in Canton, China. My mother was his daughter born in 1936. In 2006, I travelled to China and met her 2 older sisters who still live in China. Due to the Chinese Exclusion act 1923-47, it was not possible for Val to bring his first family to Canada. May , my mother Jean, and Robert came to Canada in 1950. The 2 older sisters were already married and had careers so remained in China and they did not see my mother again until the mid-1980s when the Communists allowed travel to the country.

    • mdm says:

      Thank you for this additional information. I appreciate it.

    • Daniel says:

      Hello Bonnie, I’ve recently been doing some genealogical work and discovered a connection to your grandfather’s brother Donald. Interestingly, I used to attend FBC Vancouver, as did my wife. Would be very interested to be in touch.

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