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Mary Millicent Fallis was born in 1912 in the Okanagan region (possibly) of British Columbia to Mable Lavinia (née Hockin) and the Rev. George O. Fallis. Her father was a Methodist minister in Penticton until 1913 when he moved his young family to Kamloops. During the autumn of 1915, the Rev. Fallis C.B.E., B.A., B.D., D.D. left his Kamloops pastorate to go oversees with the Canadian Expeditionary Force as their Chaplain. Her mother took Mary, then three years old, to Grand Pré, Nova Scotia where they stayed with her maternal grandparents the Rev. Arthur and Mrs. Annie Marie Hockin and her aunt Hilda. While the spring of 1916 saw the birth of her brother George, the summer saw the Fallis family move once again after Mary’s grandfather accepted his last Methodist pastorate in the town of Berwick, Nova Scotia just prior to his retirement.
Following his 1920 (?) discharge as Senior Protestant Chaplain from the Chaplaincy Corps, Col. the Rev. George O. Fallis moved his family from the East Coast back West where, in 1923, he became the founder of the Canadian Memorial Chapel. Mary entered Grade 8 in Vancouver, B.C. After highschool she attended the University of British Columbia (UBC) where she majored in English, minored in French and was strongly involved with the Home Economics Club, the Women’s Track Club, and the Letters Club. Upon her graduation from the Faculty of Arts in 1932, Mary Fallis taught English for a number of years. As a UBC alumnus she was also actively involved with the UBC Alumni Association, the University Women’s Club and the UBC Senate.
In 1969, Mary Fallis moved to Prince George to become one of the founding members of the English Department at the College of New Caledonia. Upon her retirement in 1972 she remained in Prince George where she could further her passions for exploring the Canadian wilderness, photography, gardening, and environmental activism. In April 1985 Mary received an Award of Merit in Recreation from the City of Prince George for her tireless campaign efforts towards the preservation of parklands and wilderness areas in the Prince George region (most notably Moore’s Meadow and Cottonwood Island Park). Her hobby of nature photography assisted in these environmental campaigns as she was known to have used her beautiful images as a presentation tool to help convince City Council of the value of parks and nature preserves. Several of Mary's photos have also been used as illustrations in publications such as Wild Trees of BC by Sherman Brough (1998) and Ocean to Alpine edited by Cam and Joy Findlay (1992).
Mary Fallis joined the Vancouver Section of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) in 1949 and remained an active member for the next 50 years. In 1999 Mary was made an ACC Life Member. Over the years she took part in14 ACC Camp outings: 13 of which being held in the Rockies, as well as, the 1967 ACC Centennial Camp beside the Steele Glacier in Kluane Park, Yukon. She also involved herself in other ACC–Vancouver Section activities such as maintaining its archives, book restoration and library development. She put in several season’s work as Photographic Chairman of the ACC-Vancouver Section photo competitions in the early 1950s, and for the ACC-National Club black & white and colour competitions, 1954-1958.
As something of a bibliophile, Mary’s extensive library grew to include many works by Canadian, and especially Western Canadian authors. Mary Fallis is perhaps best remembered, however, as a naturalist and gardener; capturing her passion for the flora and landscapes of northern British Columbia through her photographic lens. In 1994 Mary Fallis was made a Friend of the University of British Columbia: she died on 8 September 1999 after suffering heart failure and additional health complications. Following her death, the estate of Mary Fallis donated her extensive library collection to the UNBC Library. The estate also generously transferred a large portion of Mary’s photographic and textual materials to the University. This photographic collection now comprises part of the Mary Fallis fonds.
In tribute to her life, the Friends of Mary Fallis established a memorial scholarship in her name for future English students at the University of Northern British Columbia. Endowment funds for this scholarship resulted from the proceeds of a 9 April 2000 concert at Vanier Hall which saw the performance of Mary’s niece, Canadian operatic singer Mary Lou Fallis
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