09/27/2014 19:21 EDT | Updated 11/27/2014 05:59 EST

Jim Deva remembered at memorial as passionate free speech advocate

St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church was packed Saturday as more than a thousand people from the community to whom he gave so much, turned out to honour Little Sister's Bookstore owner Jim Deva 

From close friends to politicians and drag queens, the crowd, an eclectic group of people as diverse as the community he was so much a part of, talked about his passion for people and the strength of his convictions.

When Deva was growing up the in the fifties and sixties, rural Alberta was not gay friendly and that experience as a closeted young gay man, say his friends, not only honed his empathy, but helped mold him into a vociferous advocate for gay rights.

"Deva's legacy really can't be overstated," said long-time friend and lawyer barbarafindlay (who spells her name without capital letters).  

"He established a community centre as well as a book store and this has been a place that everybody has looked to for information, for support, and for advice. "He and the book store stood up for freedom of speech all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada twice."

It was outrage against discrimination that drove Jim Deva, a former school teacher turned advocate.

In the late 1980's Deva took the federal government  to court when it stopped gay and lesbian books from crossing the border into Canada.

His Little Sister's Book store won that censorship battle, but while it may have been his most noteworthy cause, it was just one of many.

Many of his friends have stories about how he personally went to bat for them when they faced discrimination.

Deva died falling off a ladder at his home last Sunday. He was 64 years old

He leaves behind his partner Bruce and the thousands of friends he made over his lifetime.