Larry McCann, author of Imagining Uplands, John Olmsted’s Masterpiece of Residential Design, has died. The Oak Bay historian is lovingly remembered as a dedicated educator, researcher and advocate for Oak Bay’s Uplands neighbourhood. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay educator, historian remembered for dedication to Uplands neighbourhood

Larry McCann studied, wrote about and protected heritage area

Family, friends and Oak Bay community leaders are mourning the loss of Lawrence (Larry) McCann, an author, educator, researcher and pioneer of local historic conservation.

Raised in Oak Bay, McCann developed a passion for geography during his time as a student at the University of Victoria. He went on to teach at the University of British Columbia, Mount Allison University and the University of Victoria before retirement in 2012.

READ ALSO: Uplands neighbourhood designated a national historic site

McCann contributed significantly to Canadian studies and authored 70 scholarly works, according to an obituary written by McCann’s son Hugh.

Recognized for his work nationally – receiving the Massey Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2001 – McCann remained inspired by his small, hometown community on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

McCann served on Victoria’s Heritage planning group and the Advisory and Design panel for the District Oak Bay. Oak Bay’s Uplands neighbourhood was of particular influence for McCann, who in 2016, published Imagining Uplands, John Omsted’s Masterpiece of Residential Design, an account of landscape architect John Olmsted’s work to create the subdivision in the early 20th century.

Hugh described the book as “a legacy and gift to Victoria’s residents and scholars everywhere.”

In 2019 McCann led the charge to have the neighbourhood designated as a National Historical Site of Canada, a designation granted in August of that year.

Author and historian Larry McCann with Oak Bay Archives student volunteer Liam Dyson. McCann, who died June 18, donated 55 boxes of his private collection to the municipality. (Black Press Media file photo)

READ ALSO: New book explores the design and impact of the Uplands

Hugh notes his father donated his research materials to the District of Oak Bay. He writes that along with the materials he gathered and the books he wrote, his father’s teachings had a lasting impact on many young minds.

“Larry is fondly remembered by students across the country, as a great listener and for the wisdom that he conveyed,” Hugh writes. “His creative approach to teaching, which involved frequent field trips through the streets of Oak Bay and Uplands, inspired countless students to pursue careers in geography.”

Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch called McCann a “truly good person.”

“His first reaction was to try to find ways he could help, whether that was with his time or his knowledge, it was always his first thought to help other people,” Murdoch told Black Press Media. “He did that with me, he did that with everyone.”

Murdoch said McCann’s contributions to Oak Bay and Uplands are invaluable to the community.

“He provided the expertise [and] the skill to actually articulate what was special about that area,” Murdoch said. “We wouldn’t have that level of knowledge without him, we wouldn’t have the [heritage] designation without him.”

McCann died June 18, 2020 at Royal Jubilee Hospital surrounded by his children. He’s survived by his son Hugh McCann, daughter Meaghan McCann Stevens and his grandson Ty Stevens. A private family event will be held later. The family asks that memories and messages of condolence be sent by email to ldmccann1945.2020@gmail.com.

READ ALSO: University student’s summer dedicated to Uplands’ research


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