Faces in the Crowd- How Our Love Lives and Never Dies

Posted on May 10, 2018 under Faces in the Crowd with 5 comments

Courage

 

“Bill. I love you so, I always will.”

Wedding Bell Blues – Fifth Dimension

“I am a hard worker and a fighter. I love my family more than anything, including my four legged friends.”

Meet Linda Kennedy.

The youngest of three siblings, Linda was born on Hallowe’en Day in London, Ontario. “I’m a treat; not a trick!”  quips Linda. At the age of three, her father was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a group of varied inherited disorders of the peripheral nervous system characterized by progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. By the time she was five, her dad had leg braces. It was her first exposure to the world of people with disabilities.

Even at a young age, her caring instinct came to the fore. Her mother always thought that she would have made an excellent nurse. Eventually, her dad ended up in a wheelchair and suffered through cancer, a heart attack and pressure wounds. He accepted his lot in life with grace and dignity.

The family moved to Burlington in 1967.

Linda loved her youth and was a sports enthusiast. After graduating from high school, she attended Sheridan College where she received a diploma in Media Arts. She ended up in television, a world dominated by men at the time. She gained the respect of her peers and management and became the first female master control technician in Canada.

Bill Kennedy was born in Toronto. His family was originally from Newfoundland . He was one of ten children and at the age of 16, left home in search of work. He moved to St. John’s, married young, and had two children. The marriage ended after six years.

Bill was tall, handsome, and very athletic. Through a series of coincidences, he ended up playing on a co-ed baseball team. Linda was a teammate. After the first game, the team went to a bar. Linda thought Bill was “magnificent” but a potential “heart breaker” and not for her. She mistook his shyness for arrogance.

They played on a few different sports teams over the next few years. One night, he asked her to dance at a function. “It clicked right away. We both knew in an instant that we were made for each other.”

They were married on October 23rd, 1987. With so many people from out of town in for the wedding, they decided to have a family get together in Muskoka. The newlyweds went up a day early before the others arrived. Being baseball enthusiasts, it was not surprising that they watched game 7 of the World Series that evening. Late into the evening, Bill stepped out on the deck for a smoke. Linda heard a thump and thought it might be a raccoon jumping off the roof onto the deck.

She grabbed a flashlight and went outside. A faint vice called out, “Linda. Help me. I broke my neck. I can’t move.” Bill had leaned back on the railing of the deck, slipped, and fell over backwards, landing on his head and crushing his C6 vertebrae. It was later discovered that the railing was 11 inches too low. Even at this darkest of hours, Bill maintained his legendary sense of humour. He looked at Linda and said, “Look out, Rick Hansen. Here I come.”

After a stay in the local hospital, he was airlifted to Sunnybrook in Toronto. Bill’s long and arduous journey had begun. He spent time in the brain/spinal injury unit for a few months before moving to Lyndhurst, a rehabilitation facility. He spent 10 months there and forged lifelong friendships with other patients. Many pranks were played. Laughter was sprinkled with tears but Bill never bemoaned his fate. “Why me? Why not me,” became his mantra. Anyone can become disabled in a heartbeat.

The couple moved into an accessible townhouse and four years later they bought a house. Their home became the focal point for family gatherings and celebrations, the more the merrier, and that included pets. Their motto was, “We welcome all stray pets and people.” Bill’s disability did not stand in the way of a good time.

In order to keep the family going, Linda had to work at two jobs. She was also quickly becoming Bill’s primary caregiver. A dynamo, she had the capacity to survive on very little sleep.

Over the years, the family traveled to many places. Bill’s children from his first marriage were now living with them full time. In 2004, they traveled to P.E.I. to attend his sister’s wedding. The day after the wedding, Bill slipped and fell resulting in a pressure wound. This would be a harbinger of more difficulties ahead. He had surgery to fix the pressure wound and while in hospital, contracted c difficile, a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life threatening inflammation of the colon. He endured three rounds of c diff but he never complained. He was more concerned about Linda’s well- being.

In 2011, Linda stopped working to devote her time caring for Bill. “I did it because I loved him. He needed my love.”

The relationship was not without its struggles but Linda attributes her fortitude and inner strength to both her dad and mom who set the moral compass and showed the family how to deal with adversity. According to Linda, the last ten years of their marriage were their best despite the fact that these ten years also posed the greatest health challenges for Bill and the extended family.

Bill’s pressure wounds continued to be a concern and then he was diagnosed with cancer. He became a type 2 diabetic, suffered a heart attack and had congestive heart failure. His weight plummeted from 240 to 110 pounds. A feeding tube became necessary.

While all this was happening, Linda’s father’s health was in decline and she spent time helping with her dad’s care. Her dad’s disease rendered him a quadriplegic. Linda applauds her mother who set the tone and example in the household: never give up and never give in.

In 2016, Bill’s health worsened and Linda’s dad finally succumbed to his illness. Her brother in law, who she visited with regularly, died of brain cancer. And their beloved dog died that summer.

Bill turned 65 on December 13, 2016 but sadly never got to cash his first company pension cheque in January of 2017. On Christmas Day, 2016, Bill died hugging the one he loved the most.

CMT is a hereditary illness. Linda was diagnosed at the age of 26. The stress of caring for so many for so long took its toll and in 2011, she started noticing that her medical condition was worsening. Having watched her father’s demise, she knows what’s ahead. But Linda is not deterred. She wants to be a change maker and will devote her considerable energy and talents to improving the health care system. “There has to be purpose for the pain.”

Linda’s final word to Bill on Christmas Eve was HOLLAND: How Our Love Lives and Never Dies.

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Faces in the Crowd – Laughter and Friendship

Posted on February 1, 2018 under Faces in the Crowd with 2 comments

Living and loving life to the fullest

 

“There is no place nicer in the world than Antigonish.”

Meet Linda Sooley and Rick Asselin.

Linda grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Rick was born in Ottawa. Linda left Newfoundland when she was 20. Her work took her to different parts of Canada. She raised her family in Ontario. One of her jobs was administrative secretary at Algonquin College for an amiable young man by the name of Kent MacDonald. She would become reacquainted with him several years later.

Rick was raised by his grandmother in Hull, Quebec and in his early 20’s; he hopped a train and went out to Vancouver to begin his work career. He was a builder specialist for one of Canada’s major banks. He also had a passion for vehicles, especially BMW’s which he bought and sold.

In 2012, Rick was sitting on a park bench in Aylmer, Quebec mapping out his route to Texas where he was traveling to see his brother. On the other end of the bench sat Linda. They struck up a conversation and he ended up inviting her out for supper. Rick did go to Texas but kept in touch with Linda.

In the summer 2014, now a couple, they traveled to Newfoundland, a place that Rick always wanted to visit. They talked about buying a business together although they weren’t sure what that business would be.

Upon returning to Nova Scotia after a day time sailing, Antigonish seemed a logical place to stop for the night. They booked a room at a B@B in Cape George. When their GPS took them into the country via Hawthorne Street, they were convinced they were on the wrong road. Having remembered a small motel called the Evergreen, they backtracked looking for a room for the night. As fate would have it, there had just been a cancellation and they stayed there that night.

It was love at first sight…. the motel, that is!

Over breakfast, they found out that the place was for sale. They both had a gut feeling that this just might be the right business opportunity that they were seeking. They tracked down the realtor and later that very same day, made an offer to purchase which was accepted. On November 3, 2014, Linda and Rick were officially motel owners.

The Evergreen Inn is a hidden gem. Because of its location, it does not enjoy the visibility enjoyed by other accommodations. But that hasn’t stopped the motel from getting a reputation as one of the premier motels in its class in Canada. Trip Advisor, Canada Select and Trivago all have it near or at the top of their ratings scales.

And how does a small motel achieve such lofty status?  “We pay attention to detail. We will do anything to make a traveler’s stay more enjoyable,” says Rick.

“And Rick has a wonderful sense of humour,” chirps in Linda. “We both like to chat with our customers and are interested in the vocations of many of their guests.”

The couple is here for the long haul. They purchased a property in Cape George and when they aren’t attending to the smallest of detail for the traveling public, they are enjoying the lifestyle of rural Nova Scotia.

It is obvious that they love what they do and have embraced Antigonish, the place they now call home. With laughter and friendship, they have built a solid, profitable business.

May the business remain “ever green.”

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Faces in the Crowd – Rose to the Rescue

Posted on January 25, 2018 under Faces in the Crowd with no comments yet

Brenda’s Best Buddies

 

“Teaching is the greatest job in the world. You can make such a difference in a child’s life.”

Meet Brenda Rose.

Brenda grew up in the Gaspe, the youngest of three children. There was no running water or electricity in the home. Baths took place in a large washtub in the kitchen by the woodstove. When she was four years old, the family moved to Montreal. There were more job opportunities in a big city after the war and her parents wanted her oldest brother to attend high school there. In spite of their lack of education, her parents were aware of its importance and wanted the best for their children.

Her father worked as a pipefitter in the shipyards and her mother did housecleaning for the wealthy folks of Montreal. Her mother would often come home with toys, castoffs from the home owners. Brenda amassed a large collection of dolls and would often line them up and pretend to be a teacher… a precursor of things to come.

A love of music surfaced at an early age and once again, she and her siblings benefited from the largesse of their mom’s employers. Brenda started taking piano lessons around the age of 8. With no piano at home, she practiced on a cardboard keyboard.

The idea of service to others was ingrained in the Rose children from an early age. Brenda knew (and so did the dolls!) from an early age that she was going to be a teacher. She worked at Morgan’s (which eventually became The Bay) which paid for her entire university career. This also developed a strong work ethic.

She attended Sir George Williams (Concordia) University, the educational institution for the working class. She eventually received her B.Ed. from McGill. She taught for 37 years and in many cases, chose schools that served poorer populations. She realized that she could make the biggest impact on those less fortunate.

She raised two small children as a single parent. Both had allergies, especially to fur. It was no surprise then that the children coveted a dog! In 1992, a story appeared in the Montreal Gazette about Greyhound Rescue Dogs. At the urging of her daughters they went to see them. Neither of the children sneezed or coughed. The children pleaded to take one home. “I thought I had died and gone to hell,” quips Brenda.

And so began a love affair with this special breed of dogs.

Brenda and the children did a lot of camping over the years in different parts of Canada including two weeks every summer at Cape Breton Highlands National Park. She decided that when the time came, she would buy some land and retire in Nova Scotia. In 2005, she acquired land in Cape George, sight unseen. She built a home which has become home to Fable and Queenie, her beloved greyhounds. She also babysits for other people’s greyhounds.

Reflecting on her life Brenda comments, “Not everything I did worked out but at least I tried.”

Brenda has rescued the lives of many of God’s creatures … of the two legged and four legged varieties.

 

Fable

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