George Ho Lem Sr.
George Ho Lem Sr. (1918-2005) was born in Calgary and became the first Chinese-Canadian to be elected as an alderman (1959) and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the province of Alberta (1971). (Milou, pp. 1)
He was an avid businessman, owning the Belmont Café, co founded Rosedale Cleaners with his brother David. He was also an integral contributor to the Calgary Stampede and served as a director of the Stampede Park for 18 years before being granted a lifetime membership as an honorary director.
His family has always had a history for public service and community outreach. Ho Lem’s father was an active leader in the Chinatown community. In 1910, he led a unified effort to rebuild a new Chinatown after the previous site was jeopardized by railway lines and rising property values.
“The construction of the building was stalled after a group of local white residents petitioned to relocate Chinatown to a isolated part of the city. Ho Lem, along with a delegation of other prominent Chinese and white residents, met with civic authorities to find a solution. Eventually settling passing a resolution preventing the segregation.” (CCCCA, pp. 3)
George Ho Lem’s father believed greatly in equal opportunity, regardless of cultural background or ethnicity. He himself would follow in his father’s footsteps becoming a critical cornerstone in saving present-day Chinatown from a proposed freeway plan, called the East Calgary Downtown Penetrator.
“In the 1970s, the city proposed extending Bow Trail all the way through 2nd and 3rd avenues in order to bring more cars to the core. Fearful for the future of their neighbourhood and homes, a small group of Chinese-Calgarians fought to kill the proposal. After three years of negotiations… what is now known as the Chinatown Development Task Force won what they called “a David and Goliath battle.” (Brooks, pp. 4)
George Ho Lem Sr. fought continually for the values that he believed in and became a well-remembered community leader and historical figure. He is survived by his wife Edie, two sons and two daughters, as well as many grandchildren.