Donor Story

Friend for Life

17 June 2013

A dedicated volunteer, Brad Joseph found a way to continue his support long after he was gone

“Brad had personality-plus! He made friends no matter where he went,” says his mother, Bernice Joseph. “We had a very close relationship. He came on many holidays with us, met his dad and me in Vegas for our 50th anniversary, and surprised his dad by flying home for his 75th birthday.

“His death was such a shock to us. I still can’t believe it,” she continues. “Even though he passed on April 20, 2009, it still feels unreal.”

Terry Twentyman laughs, “Brad and I were great friends for over 30 years. He loved to travel, to camp, to volunteer. And he had a crazy sense of humour. We went to Peru together and he wore spandex shorts and tank tops for the entire trip, just for fun.” And according to longtime friend Kelly Kellogg, “Brad was just open arms all the time. He would help out anyone he could. He was always there, dedicated to backing up his friends. And he was always happy.”

In talking to people who were close to Brad Joseph, an accountant and former Canada Revenue Agency auditor, two things become clear. Joseph was a loving and committed friend, brother and son. And, he was a man who embraced every opportunity and challenge that life threw his way.

When he was diagnosed with HIV, back before the HIV suppression drug therapies that are available today, he didn’t expect to live 12 months – so he bought an open-ended airline ticket and spent what he thought would be his last year travelling the world.

To his great surprise, he ended up having to settle the huge credit card debt he accumulated on his trip,” laughs Twentyman.

According to Twentyman, “the whole HIV thing made Brad angry.  Angry that people are HIV positive. He’d do whatever he could to help people in his situation. And not just people with HIV, but anyone who was terminally ill.”

In fact, Joseph’s compassion for people living in their final years started long before he received his own diagnosis.

“Brad was always eager to visit his great-grandmother, who lived out of town. He’d tell us, ‘since I don’t know how long she’ll be here.’ And he could make my mother laugh like nobody else could, calling her ‘his sexy grandma.’ She thought he was the best,” Bernice (Joseph’s mother) says.

After one of his own friends passed away from HIV, Joseph took it upon himself to care for that friend’s 80-year-old mother, Ann.

He would visit Ann often, cook her meals, entertain her, take her out for walks and even do her taxes. Becoming a dedicated volunteer with Friends For Life didn’t surprise anyone who knew Joseph.

The Friends for Life Society began delivering massages and hot meals to people with HIV/AIDS in the 1990s. Today, it is North America’s only comprehensive wellness centre providing complimentary services to people living with serious illness. Located in Vancouver’s West End, in the Diamond Centre for Living, it has provided a warm “home-like” environment and a safe haven to more than 2,800 people.

“Brad loved Friends For Life and he loved the people there. That’s where he met many of his friends,” says Kellogg. “For years he was the crew lead for the Monday brunch. He’d go to the House on the weekend, see what food was available to use, pick up a cheque, and ride his scooter to the Costco in Richmond to buy enough food to feed 40 or more people. He’d fill his backpack and strap boxes between his legs and on the back of the scooter to get the food back to the House!”

“Volunteering with Friends For Life was a big social thing for Brad. He’d put himself in the back seat since he could see it was helping others,” says Twentyman.

Michael Smith, the Friends For Life director of fund development, says the brunch program provides much more than just a healthy meal to members. “The social environment of the brunch is wonderful. People get to feed their body and their spirit at the same time. There’s so much warmth and positivity in the House on brunch days that you can forget you’re a member with a chronic illness; you’re just a person having lunch with a friend.”

On brunch days, Joseph would arrive at Friends For Life by 8 a.m. and manage a team of four other people to prepare and cook a starter, a main course and a dessert. The day didn’t end until after 3 p.m., once cleanup was done.

Joseph’s dedication to the brunch program was so strong that he found a way to continue supporting it even after he was no longer able to volunteer: in his will, Joseph left a legacy gift to Friends For Life through Vancouver Foundation.

His gift means that the brunch program will have core funding in perpetuity. And since just 20 per cent of Friends For Life’s funding comes from government, and most of the services are o_ ered for free or a minimal charge (brunch for 60 people twice a week costs $3 per person), individual gifts like Joseph’s are critical to the ongoing operation of the programs.

“Brad really cared about the people and his friends at Friends For Life. And he was an extremely smart man the way he set up his legacy fund with Vancouver Foundation. The way he did it, his legacy will live on forever,” says Kellogg.

Bernice Joseph adds, “It means a lot to us that Friends For Life has honoured Brad by naming the day he was the crew lead as the ‘Brad Joseph Legacy Brunch’ since it really shows everyone the kind of person he was. We were always so proud of him. This is just icing on the cake.” VF


A Legacy Fund is a fund you create in anticipation of leaving a future gift from your estate to support your community.


Your Legacy Fund starts with a gift of $1,000 or more. This donation is invested in your named, permanent endowment fund. Granting from your Legacy Fund can begin when it reaches $10,000. These additional donations can be made during your lifetime, or later through your estate.

Vancouver Foundation can help you develop a giving plan that will satisfy your philanthropic goals. You specify which charities you wish to support, provide a gift to Vancouver Foundation in your will to be added to your Legacy Fund, and we will carry out your wishes. With a Legacy Fund, you can change your future giving plans at any time without the effort and expense of updating your will.


A Legacy Fund with Vancouver Foundation is an excellent way to support your favourite charities and help future generations at the same time. We can show you how a Legacy Fund offers fl exibility and peace of mind. For more details, contact Kristin Helgason at 604.629.5186  or

Vancouver Foundation magazine Spring 2013

By Donna Barker

Photos courtesy of Bernice Joseph

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