3 min

Proud life: Dale McCarthy

Mar 6, 1931 - Apr 26, 2007

Ffollowing a five-year struggle with cancer and a short illness, Dale McCarthy died peacefully at home with his family by his side on Apr 26 at the age of 76. He kept his family close throughout his life, in particular his children Beth, Megan, Sean and Kirsten, and his aunt, Doris McCarthy, who were all with him in the last days.

Dale excelled at work, at home and in his volunteer activities. It was as though he never stopped, yet he always had the time to slow down and flash his wonderful handlebar-moustached smile at you, with a side dish of an inimitable twinkling eye. He made everyone around him feel comfortable, be they his patients, friends or a nervous first-time attendee of the AIDS Committee Of Toronto (ACT) Safer SM Education seminars.

Born Mar 6, 1931 in Kapuskasing, Dale graduated from the University Of Toronto in 1955 in medicine and went on to complete internships and residencies in Victoria, Toronto and New York.

In 1961 Dale and his wife Margaret, with whom he shared a happy marriage for many years, moved to Edinburgh, Scotland where he completed a fellowship in rheumatology at the Northern General Hospital. The family later moved back to Toronto where Dale accepted an appointment as a specialist in internal medicine and rheumatology in U of T’s department of medicine. During his career he also worked extensively with the Ontario March Of Dimes conducting northern clinic trips, to provide his medical expertise where it would otherwise be unavailable.

After retiring from medicine in 1999, he worked as a trainer and administrator for the U of T Standardized Patient Program, serving both the university and the Medical Council Of Canada. To anyone who knew Dale it was apparent that, at work, he was enormously well respected and loved, particularly in the Standardized Patient Program, for which he worked from his bed until less than a week before he died.

Dale was very active behind the scenes in the Church/Wellesley village, perhaps because he came out before many of us were born. He realized that at that time it was very hard for many people to come out, so he volunteered to make the process easier where possible, by helping out with a variety of village organizations, including the Gay Counselling Centre Of Toronto. It is notable that at the same time, Dale was single-handedly raising his four children, and doing a remarkable job at that, too.

For many years Dale’s broad smile could be seen on Church St as a regular Pride volunteer. Pride was a family affair for the McCarthy’s, and you’d likely run into all of them at one location or another. If you wanted to find Dale, however, you’d make a beeline for the beer garden at the 519 Community Centre, which for many years was his volunteer post.

Way back at the start of the “gay disease” epidemic as it was then known, Dale was one of the founding members of the AIDS Committee Of Toronto. Like many in the leather community at that time, he also put his energies into helping prevent the spread of the disease, as one of the two original writers of ACT’s Safer SM pamphlet, which has, in its several incarnations, been used by sex educators around the world as a model for sexual health education. It remains the most popular and longest in print of ACT’s pamphlets.

In 1991 Dale and three friends spawned the idea of a seminar on health and safety for SM players over drinks at The Toolbox, then a well-known watering hole on Eastern Ave. These original four volunteers, known as the FourSM, first presented the seminar nine months later, which became Toronto’s Safer SM Education project, part of ACT’s Talking Sex project. It was the longest running of all of ACT’s projects, making it to more than 14 years. The FourSM then put their seminar knowledge into print, rapidly making Dale the best-selling author of On The Safe Edge: A Manual For SM Play under the penname Dr Dale.

Dale was also a longtime associate member of the Chicago Hellfire Club (CHC) and a longtime member of Delta, and he was as active and as well loved in these clubs as he was in the other parts of his life.

Throughout his career, Dale received many honours and awards, including those presented by the Ontario March Of Dimes and the Arthritis Society, as well as teaching awards from Toronto General Hospital in 1987, 1990 and 1992. In 2002 Dale received a volunteer award for his many years of service to ACT.

Dale found joy in just about everything and everyone he encountered, and he was extraordinarily generous in giving his time and love. It often astonished some in one part of his life how active he was in other parts, and how unassuming he was about all that he had achieved. Dale will be remembered as much for his volunteer work as for his moustache, his beaming smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye that he kept right up to the end.