The indignity of having his last name misspelled on Delta signs has ended for John Sullivan Deas, a pioneer of B.C.’s commercial cannery industry.
It was about three years ago when Randy Anderson-Fennell first noticed the signs on the Millennium Trail informing visitors how to get to “Dea’s Island Regional Park” weren’t quite right. Or, at least his wife did.
“She knew instantly it was wrong,” said Anderson-Fennell. “I would have been oblivious to it.”
Corry Anderson-Fennell is a former reporter and editor at community papers, including the Delta Optimist, and is a “grammar guru” who knows her punctuation. “She’s one of the people who lives by the Eats, Shoots and Leaves book,” he said with a laugh.
She shared a photo of the signs on Facebook and got some outrage from friends, but little else.
Unclear of the jurisdiction, she first notified Metro Vancouver, which operates the park, then reported the spelling error to Delta city hall through an online form in July.
With February being Black History month, Anderson-Fennell decided to write a letter published in the Delta Optimist asking the city to set the record straight.
Last year he returned a commemorative plaque he had found at a Fort Langley antique store to a segregated school in Texas, and knows getting history right is important.
“I saw the impact of the return of the plaque to that school, so I can imagine the negative impact of having a historic name spelled wrong,” he said.
Deas, a free black man born in South Carolina, came to Canada in 1862 searching for gold until he realized there’s money to be made from the bounty of the Fraser River.
A tinsmith by trade, he started canning salmon in 1871, building his cannery on what is now known as Deas Island. He lived seven out of his 15 years in B.C. in Delta and became a Canadian citizen.
His name lives on in Deas Island and Deas Island Regional Park. Deas Tunnel was also named after him until it was renamed George Massey Tunnel in 1967.
On Monday, the City of Delta confirmed it had fixed the signs.
The City of Delta has finally fixed two signs that spelled Deas Island Regional Park incorrectly as Dea’s Island Regional Park. Delta residents Randy and Corry Anderson-Fennell first noticed the signs years ago and contacted the city last summer informing them of the error. The signs, located on the Millennium Trail, was replaced sometime in February.
“Goodness gracious,” said Mayor Lois Jackson when she was informed of the errant apostrophes in the signs. She said she wasn’t aware of them but agreed historical namesakes should be spelled accurately. “Absolutely.” she said. “It’s good it’s fixed.”
Anderson-Fennell said his wife was ecstatic when she learned the signs have been changed. “That was one less bad punctuation out there,” he said.