Gerd Weih, founding member of the Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation, died in Victoria on August 31. He was dedicated to the aims and work of BBCF which he formed with his wife and companion in life’s struggles for peace and justice, Theresa Wolfwood. The ‘Boecker’ in the name of the foundation came from his mother’s family.
After his experiences in World War 2 and his time in a Russian prisoner of war camp, he came to Canada to start a new life. He believed that war was the worst thing that could happen to people and a society and worked tirelessly for peace that provided justice and dignity for people and communities.
Gerd was a physician who healed many people; he brought hundreds of babies into the world. He practised in Alberta for most of his working life. After early retirement from medical practice, Gerd worked as a volunteer doctor in Nevis, Domenica, Zimbabwe and Nicaragua- in a war zone, often treating those injured by the Contras.
His commitment to peace and social justice took him with Theresa to be human rights observers in the jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, to refugee camps in Mexico to meetings and clandestine encounters with Guatemalans during the civil war there. He joined a coffee-picking brigade in Nicaragua. Later he was a an election observer three times in El Salvador and travelled to Mexico to meet with activists opposed to Canadian mining companies.
He visited and supported the Mazi Mazuri Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, Women in Struggle in Pakistan, farmer groups in Uganda and many other grass-roots organizations. He believed in and supported independent media in Canada and abroad.
Gerd and Theresa travelled twice to Palestine, meeting farmers, families, activists, workers and independent politicians; they attended a conference on non-violent resistance in Bil’in, Palestine where they were tear-gassed by the Israeli army at peaceful demonstrations. In Jordan and Lebanon they met with Palestinian refugees in camps and organizations dedicated to an independent Palestine and the right of return.
Over the years Gerd was informed and inspired by participation in World Social Forums and other international conferences. He was always stimulated by the work and analysis of other activists.
A keen reader, he was reading books on Palestine, USA torture camps and the Spanish Civil War just before his death. Gerd loved making and fixing things. He spent many hours lying under various ancient VW vans over the years. With Theresa he built a cabin on Hornby Island; there he planted trees and entertained many visitors. He joined in many peace and social actions in that community.
He loved the theatre and was an enthusiastic amateur actor, set-builder and board member of theatre groups. He acted in two political musicals created and directed by BBCF board member, Stacy Chapplel. In MAI in Oz he played Margaret Thatcher as the Marlboro Man and in Splice of Life he was a genetically modified sheep.
Gerd was actively involved in BBCF work, often directing attention and contributions to various causes he felt strongly about, including The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature and its tree planting project in Palestine and the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) Campaign for Palestine.
Locally he was active in the Mining Justice Action Committee and the Central America Support Committee; he was bagging its Café Simpatico fair trade, organic Nicaraguan coffee in the weeks before he died. He loved hosting visitors and gatherings in his home. In June he participated as he had in previous years in the Cumberland Miners Memorial.
Gerd faithfully attended Victoria Women in Black vigils; he helped make hundreds of White Poppies for Peace and wore his proudly on his birthday, November 11, a symbol of his work for peace. The Women in Black August 6, Hiroshima Day vigil was his last public event; he came, frail but determined to the end, to witness for peace.