December 2, 1933 – September 1, 2016
at the age of 82 years
Alicia made the world a better place. Even as a young girl in the 1940’s she raged against racism and injustice and set her life’s path on righting these wrongs. When she was fifteen she went to a party with some black friends. On their way home, the police stopped them and put them in jail simply because they were together. This incident didn’t deter Alicia, but rather inspired her to fight against injustice in the system throughout her life.
Alicia (Diane) Mercurio (Lawrence) was born on Dec. 2 1933 in San Francisco. She was the second child of Earl Joseph Mercurio and Harriette Gertrude Vagg.
At the age of twenty-two, she entered the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet Convent and became Sister Mary Walter C.S.J. and took her vows on Aug. 15 1957. She taught school in Arizona and Los Angeles working with underprivileged children in poor neighborhoods for twelve years.
In February 1967, Alicia left the convent for health reasons and became active in the Vietnam antiwar movement, where she met and married her husband Randy (Clyde) Lawrence in Dec. 1967. In May of 1968, The couple travelled to Calgary in a VW bus because Randy had been drafted. While there she taught adult education to Czech refugees and became active with the Calgary Committee to aid war resisters.
On March 17 1970 she gave birth to her son, Casey. In 1970, she and Randy found and purchased an old homestead in the Shuswap and began making plans to move back to the land. In September 1972 she and her family moved lock stock and barrel into a one room rustic cabin with no running water, hydro or phone.
During this time Alicia worked on a project to divert youths on probation by providing them with a wilderness experience on White Lake. She planted trees for the forest service for 5 seasons. Alicia started a women’s centre in Salmon Arm and sponsored an outreach project focusing on women, youth and First Nations in Salmon Arm.
By 1979, Alica and Randy were separated and she took a job developing an educational program for the Okanagan Indian Band in Vernon taking Casey with her. While in Vernon she became the coordinator of the Okanagan Woman’s Coalition and in 1980 she was elected to a 2 year term representing BC & Yukon for the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. As one of the founding members of the BC Human Rights Coalition, Alicia was offered a job as a human rights officer and moved to Vancouver in 1980. Because of a change in government she lost that job and began working on Solidarity for the BC Federation of Labour.
When Solidarity ended she worked as a fundraiser for Vancouver’s Co-op radio and hosted radio shows focusing on native issues. She volunteered at various prisons taking community elders and members of the native brotherhood to reunite prisoners with their ancestral spirituality. She was on the board of the Canadian Alliance in support of Native People and did support work for Oka (Quebec).
In 1985, Alicia found a job with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and moved to Edmonton with Casey and her beloved dog Sam. In 1987 she began working in an outreach program for Urban Native Education at Matsqui Prison in Mission BC.
In 1989 she took a job at the Carnegie Centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as an educational programmer.
Alicia retired in 1998 but remained active in the community as a Carnegie Centre board member amongst other things. In 2001, Alicia returned to the Shuswap to a lovely house by the lake with her new puppy Chula where she could be near her son and his partner Alex Schon.
Alicia not only spent her life fighting for dignity and well-being of disenfranchised people but was a fiercely loyal and loving friend to way too many to mention. Special Thanks to Nurse Janine, the Salmon Arm hospice and all the care aids who tended to her during her illness and made it possible for her to die at home with her family.