Former Georgia Straight editor spearheads blues-rocking benefit for Mary Steinhauser bursary

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      Remember "Hurricane", that great Bob Dylan tune about the imprisonment of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter?

      Bob Mercer sure does.

      Dylan's 1975 protest song came out five months after a notorious hostage-taking incident at the B.C. Penitentiary that took the life of 32-year-old prison social-worker Mary Steinhauser. Three years later, finding major inspiration in "Hurricane", Mercer wrote a song called "Wilson, Lucas & Bruce" that told the inside story of the 72-hour standoff, including Steinhauser's death "from a prison guard's gun" and the fact that B.C. Pen's extensive use of solitary confinement was what led to the hostage-taking in the first place.

      At the time Mercer was editor of the Georgia Straight and lead vocalist for a band called the Explosions, which included longtime Straight music critic Alex Varty, as well as then-Straight staffers Tom Harrison and David Lester. The group released "Wilson, Lucas & Bruce" as a 45 rpm single, the first and only release on Georgia Straight Records. 

      Fast-forward 35 years and self-described "song and dance man" Mercer is still fighting the good fight, trying to keep the memory of Steinhauser alive. At the Russian Hall this Saturday (Dec. 7) his current group, Mercer Van Eyes, will join Jughead and the Mud Bay Blues Band at a benefit for the Mary Steinhauser Memorial Bursary, which gives priority to an SFU student of First Nations heritage pursuing a career in Arts & Social Sciences.

      As well as aiding a deserving student, the bursary—initiated by Steinhauser's younger sister, Margaret Franz—is meant to commemorate Steinhauser's courageous life.

      "Do you remember a woman named Mary," sings Mercer on "Wilson, Lucas & Bruce", "she was held on the edge of a blade/But she never died from no knife at her throat/She died for the friends she made."

      Those wishing to contribute to the bursary fund can contact Wanda Dekleva at



      Jane Edwards Griffin

      Dec 4, 2013 at 10:32pm

      More power to you Bob! And power to the people behind Mary's legacy. Her cause, the memory of her courageous stance, and her life are to be remembered. Never forgotten. See you at the benefit.

      mike edwards

      Jan 29, 2014 at 3:37pm

      Oh, aint this wonderful ! Glamourizing a convicted murderer (Andy Bruce) by putting him on a 45 records' cover ? Do people know he murdered a young woman in a gas station prior to his time at the Pen ? Do they care ? Mary was having sex with this felon behind closed doors at the Pen, & was sympathetic to his cause. Thats what got her killed. Now Andy B is out on parole. Only in Canada can you kill someone then get immortalized on a record sleeve, then released. And todays Province paper has the story how a guy who killed 4 people in 1980 (including a Richmond RCMP member) is getting 72 leave from jail. Can we get HIM on a CD cover ? Dont make me f---'in VOMIT !!


      Mar 15, 2014 at 11:54pm

      Wow, what a story!
      People in jail and who have served time for a crime against another serve less time than those who cause damage to materials! People of the system, never deserve to have fame or recognition for their actions, even if they are good & kind


      Mar 17, 2014 at 9:25pm

      I remember Mary. She was a close family friend. She had lived in Kamloops and worked at the Tranquille School.


      Mar 27, 2014 at 6:18pm

      The bursary is a good thing. But let's be clear -- Mary Steinhauser's life was not taken by an "incident" -- it was taken by Bruce, abetted by Wilson and Lucas. Tney confined the hostages. They made it necessary for the guards to intervene to save the hostages and get them out. Bruce held Ms Steinhauser up as a shield. It's fortunate that only one person died; tragic that it was her; ironic that it was not Bruce himself. It's a testament to the restraint of the guards that Bruce, Wilson and Lucas all survived. Romanticizing this event is foolish and immature.