Saving the student thank you letters

laurenda daniells 1976

For over 50 years from 1925 to 1976 Walter Gage left an indelible personal impression on the lives of literally thousands of young Vancouverites, British Columbians and Canadians. We were thrilled when Laurenda Daniells, University Archivist Emerita, recently added her story to our collection. We learned it’s Lauren who we thank for taking care of Walter’s papers and placing them into the UBC Archives vault.  Her story below also offers a peek into the passionate heart of an exemplary human being.


My memories of Walter Gage are personal rather than academic and go back to 1948 when I first arrived in Vancouver. He was a friend of my new husband, Roy Daniells, and kindly included me in his friendship. As we settled in to campus life, he frequently dropped by in the evening when he was on his way home after a long day at the University. He became very interested in our plans for a new home on Allison Road and when we finally started landscaping our garden he enjoyed watching Roy as he struggled with the rocks and debris on our untidy lot which was the last one in the block to be developed.

As the days went by Walter became intrigued also by the baby that we were expecting. He called the baby, in his mathematical way, “one” pronounced by him as “own-ee“and followed my progress with interest. On the day after Boxing Day he kindly brought us home from the hospital (we had no car) and sat with Roy nervously listening to every breath our new baby drew. My daughters have Walter to thank that their given names do not appear on their birth certificates as he claimed that many people disliked their names and suggested that a good option would be to have them listed only by an initial. I did not agree with this theory but Roy thought it was a good one.

Since the new baby was colicky Roy undertook to take her over in the evenings where he perfected a technique of rocking her carriage, assisted by Walter, who began to arrive many evenings while I first lay exhausted in bed. However, his jovial presence drew me out of my exhaustion and I usually found myself in the living room with a cup of tea in hand listening to his many tales.. A handsome man, almost always with a pipe in hand, he sat smiling as he told stories of his days in Victoria putting on plays, enjoying the college life. He was a man of many anecdotes, some faintly mischievous, about colleagues and friends, but always cheerful and amusing. He and Roy loved to recite poetry. They belonged to a generation where memorizing poetry was encouraged, and as both of them had excellent memories they often spent an evening reciting old favorites. One of Walter’s was “Girt round with rugged mountains the fair Lake Constance lies”, (always in the voice of a nervous boy), and once when I found myself at a hotel beside that very lake I sent him a card reminding him of his favorite piece.

He was still visiting frequently when our second daughter was expected (“two”, pronounced “teewoe” by Walter), and kindly put up with all the household inconveniences of two babies, though I noticed his visits usually started later in the evening when they were safely in bed. But an unexpected Sabbatical leave finally ended the regular visits and when we returned from a year in Europe with our children he had made other connections and we saw him only occasionally.

He congratulated me when I was appointed the first University Archivist though he had once told me that he agreed with Henry Ford that “history is bunk”. Roy visited him during his last illness when he complained rather humorously about an over-zealous member of faculty who turned up at the hospital all too often. He asked for me and when I went to see him he gave me some of his papers for the Archives, and some gold artifacts that had been presented to him as President of the University. “I know you will look after them for me Laurenda.” he said. I put them in a display case which I took into the vault every day when we closed. The papers contained many thank you letters from students he had assisted and were quite touching. I had known of course that he had been tremendously generous to many students but had not realized the extent of his generosity. He was a wonderful man.

Laurenda was married to Roy, an accomplished teaching poet:

“In 1965, Roy Daniells was named the first University Professor of English Language and Literature. Daniells helped the writing careers of Margaret AvisonEarle BirneyJoy CoghillDaryl DukeRoderick Haig-BrownEli MandelMargaret LaurenceEric NicolSheila WatsonPhyllis WebbAdele Wiseman, and George Woodcock, among others. He retired in 1974.
There is a biography of Daniells by author Sandra Djwa.”


It’s with heavy heart and great sadness that we announce the passing away of Laurenda. We’re so happy she attended our Dec 12 social event. We were all looking forward to chatting with her and hearing more stories about Walter Gage. Rest in Peace.