You can count the number of Canadian lesbian heroes on two hands, and Jane Rule, who died at her home on Galiano Island of liver cancer last week, represents one whole handful.
Lesbians across the country take note - our lives are what they are because Jane Rule moved to Canada in 1957 to live and write here.
She published Desert Of The Heart, her famous dyke novel, in 1964 and became almost immediately, as she put it, "the only lesbian in Canada."
Why? Because nobody was out and proud like she was in the early 60s. Living on Galiano Island with her long-time lover, Helen Sonthoff, she fought fiercely against discrimination and openly supported the gay press, especially the Body Politic, which featured her column regularly through the late 70s and early 80s.
She lived large - literally standing 6 feet - and was hugely generous to all her communities, queer, literary and neighbourhood.
"If she gave you a commitment, she stuck to it," says Lynne Fernie, co-director of the documentary film Fiction And Other Truths: A Film About Jane Rule. "We were supposed to shoot a sequence at her house one afternoon, and she cancelled because she'd promised the neighbourhood kids that they could swim in her pool.
"'We don't want to break a promise,' she told us. She didn't cancel for the sake of celebrity. She'd rather keep her commitments to a five-year-old."
She showed unusual generosity to other artists, too. When the American director Donna Deitch came to see Rule and Sonthoff - the tallest lesbian couple ever, according to Deitch - Rule embraced Deitch's desire to turn Desert Of The Heart into a film (later released as Desert Hearts).
And Rule didn't hover or demand approvals or insist on her version of what the movie should be. She understood intuitively that an author has to give up the book to the filmmaker and let the filmmaker create a completely different work.
"I don't think you can make a film of Desert Of The Heart," she said to Deitch, "but you can certainly use the book to make your own film."
"She'd had another offer from Hollywood," recalls Deitch on the phone from her home in California, "but she didn't think Hollywood could handle it."
Jane Rule was a fabulous lesbian, but she was an even better writer. Desert Of The Heart was a cause célèbre because it was one of the first books in literary history to feature a lesbian relationship you wanted to cheer for. Unlike previous lesbo-lit offerings, the dykes didn't die or get rescued by some knight-like guy.
But Rule was a gifted artist no matter what she wrote about. Her novel The Young In One Another's Arms, for example, tackles complex relationships and urban tensions surrounding a boarding house in one terrific package.
And Memory Board tracks the early stages of dementia in the context of a long-term relationship with a terrible poignancy. If you've had any experience with Alzheimer's in your family, you should stop at nothing to get your mitts on it.
A notoriously hearty partier, Rule went to her deathbed carrying a bottle of Scotch and a bar of chocolate.
"She did a splendid, classy job of dying, as she did everything else," says Margaret Atwood. "You don't get her kind of largeness and generosity every day."