Jack Uppal remembered as a 'legend' for B.C.'s South Asian community

After his passing last year, Jack Uppal's memorial service was attended by thousands from across British Columbia. It was an emphatic statement of the impact he had on his community.

Jack worked many jobs in his early years including becoming Vancouver’s first South Asian bus driver

In his early years, Jack took on many jobs including becoming Vancouver's first South Asian bus driver. (Mehfil Magazine)

After his passing last year, Jack Uppal's memorial service was attended by thousands from across British Columbia. It was an emphatic statement of the impact he had on his community.

When his father died, Jack Uppal was forced to leave school at the age of 13 to help make ends meet for his family.

Seventy-four years later in 2012, an 87-year-old Uppal received an honorary degree from Simon Fraser University acknowledging all the work he had done for the South Asian community in his life.

"My love for humanity is the essence of my being. I want to infect you with the same desire to do for others as you would do for yourself because greatness is defined by service," he said in his speech to the graduating students that year.

Uppal passed away in May of last year. He is largely recognized as one early pioneers of South Asian descent in B.C.

Remembered by his daughter

"Our house was like a postal service. People would come in and out and my dad would be doing favours unconditionally," says Jack's daughter, Cindy Bains.

Cindy Uppal took over her father's position as president of Goldwood Industries after his passing. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

"He just loved helping the community out at-large."

After working several jobs in his youth — including becoming the first South Asian to be a bus driver in Vancouver — Jack decided the best way towards business success was to start his own business in the lumber industry. He eventually became the owner and operator of Goldwood Industries on Mitchell Island.

"The reason that the lumber industry is famous is because there was no other work for our people in the past. They couldn't be lawyers or doctors. They had to work hard and it's because of that industry that we've been able to be successful in Canada," says Bains.

Since Uppal's death, she has taken up the presidency of the company after her father.

Massive turnout at memorial service

Last year, thousands of individuals from across the province attended the memorial service for Jack Uppal.

Bains says it was his generosity towards everyone, South Asian or otherwise, that made him such a pillar of the community.

"He'll be remembered to us as a legend to our community. Nobody could do what he did, and he did it from his heart."

"He always preached to us that love is everything and that you have to love your fellow man."

If greatness is defined by service, then Jack Uppal was one of the greats.

To hear more, click the audio labelled: Jack Uppal remembered as a 'legend' for the South Asian community.

To read other stories of South Asian pioneers, download Mehfil Magazine's digital commemorative book '100 Year Journey' at www.100yearjourney.com.


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