Past Pioneers in the Disability Community

In honour of National Access and Awareness Week 2020, Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan has compiled stories of clients since deceased that have been major contributors to the community.

Click the links below to hear their stories and check out the here for more information on NAAW 2020 in Saskatchewan.

Art Wallman's career in radio was one of longevity and success. He was on air for 36 years at CKSW in Swift Current, where he was recognized with numerous awards and achievements. By itself, his broadcasting career is one to be admired, but what's remarkable is that he achieved all
of this despite being unable to walk as a child and unable to read until the age of 20.

Art Wallman's career in radio was one of longevity and success. He was on air for 36 years at CKSW in Swift Current, where he was recognized with numerous awards and achievements. By itself, his broadcasting career is one to be admired, but what's remarkable is that he achieved all of this despite being unable to walk as a child and unable to read until the age of 20. Born July 12, 1928 with spastic paralysis, Art Wallman grew up dirt poor and without the use of his legs. His early years were spent crawling around a one room shack in the district of Kelvington, Saskatchewan. It was the midst of the Great Depression, and like many, his family lived in poverty. Art never received any medical treatment until he reached the age of 9, when he began the first of 14 operations. Surgeons straightened his arms and legs, and when they finished he could finally walk, but only with the use of crutches. Art taught himself to read through the comic section of the newspaper, and his inspiration for life came from listening to the radio at home. It was here where he was first exposed to country music, and as he grew older, he also taught himself to play on his brother’s guitar. Leaving home, he traveled on the road with the Johnny Manz band from 1952 to 1957. Art had become a musician, but his real dream was to work in radio. Art auditioned for radio in the 50s, but his disability worked against him, and no one was willing to take a chance on him. Another individual might have abandoned the idea, but Art Wallman was never one to quit, and on October 18, 1960, he was hired by Wilf Gilby at CKSW. Art was told that it didn’t matter if he had to crawl to work, he just needed to do the job. Given the opportunity, Art excelled, and he continued doing that job until he retired on August 30, 1996. Always the showman, and always the promoter, Art also continued to play, putting together his own band, “Art Wallman and the Big D Jamboree Boys.” Over time, they became known as "Art Wallman and the Ambassadors.” Along the way, he released his own album, "Art Wallman Country," and also wrote his own book called, "A Good Day To Be Alive." The title summed up his feelings about life and was one of the reasons he himself became an inspiration to others. Art Wallman’s afternoon show was known for its live calls from listeners and feature interviews with country artists who called and stopped by on their way through Saskatchewan. During the time he worked at the radio station, the format, the management and the ownership all changed. Art, however, always refused to bend to these changes, and he kept on doing what he had always done. As a result, and because of his commitment to country music, Art developed a very strong and loyal following across the prairies. In 1989, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. In 1992, he was named Swift Current's Citizen of the Year. He was a member of the C.A.B.'s Quarter Century Club and an Honorary Life Member of the W.A.B. On September 6, 2003 at the age of 75, Art Wallman was elected to the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Art Wallman died on June 23rd 2011 at the age of 82. Written by Lee Friesen - August, 2003
Leroy Coates

Leroy was born in Prince Albert and following an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, he then became involved in wheelchair sports. In national competition from 1968 to 1974, Leroy won a total of 37 medals in various wheelchair events. He received 10 gold, 12 silver, and 15 bronze medals in events such as club, shot put, discus, javelin, track, table tennis, basketball, and volleyball.

 

Leroy was born in Prince Albert and following an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, he then became involved in wheelchair sports. In national competition from 1968 to 1974, Leroy won a total of 37 medals in various wheelchair events.  He received 10 gold, 12 silver, and 15 bronze medals in events such as club, shot put, discus, javelin, track, table tennis, basketball, and volleyball. Internationally, he has competed and achieved excellent results in games associated with the Pan American Games and the Olympic Games, and he led a Canadian team to the Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games on two occasions. At the Pan American Games in Winnipeg in 1967, Leroy was awarded a silver medal in the shot put and a bronze medal in the discus. He was named as captain of the basketball team at the 1967 Expo Games in Montreal.  In 1968, he participated in basketball and volleyball at the Wheelchair Olympics in Tel Aviv, Israel.  He was again chosen to the Canadian team for shot put and basketball at the 1972 Wheelchair Olympics held in Heidelberg, Germany.  His best results occurred in the 1974 Stoke Mandeville Games with gold medal finishes in shot put and basketball and a silver medal in the discus. Leroy is still active in sports and acts as a minor official at the Prince Albert Raider hockey games.  He was inducted into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and was selected for the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Hall of Fame inaugural induction in 1995. Installed in the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame on June 15, 2002. Obituary Leroy Coates Leroy Coates, late of Watrous, SK and formerly of Prince Albert, SK, passed away peacefully on August 3, 2019, at the age of 81, with his wife, daughter and grandson at his side. He was born September 13, 1937 to Wilfred and Hilda (nee Lofstrom) Coates of Canwood, SK. On August 9, 1957, he married the love of his life, Marlene Marshall of Canwood, SK. They had one daughter, Elaine. He was blessed with 4 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. He was an avid sports fan, music lover, and spent many countless hours watching his grandchildren and their sporting activities. Leroy and Marlene owned and operated LeMar Jewelers in Prince Albert for 32 years.  A Celebration of Leroy’s Life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, August 12, 2019 at the Canwood Elks Hall, Canwood, SK.  In lieu of other tributes, memorial donations can be made to the Watrous Palliative Care Unit, c/o Box 130, Watrous, SK, S0K 4T0, or Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, 2205 Victoria Ave, Regina, SK, S4P 0S4. Family and friends wishing to send online condolences are welcome to visit www.beaulacfuneralhome.com.  Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Beau “Lac” Funeral Home, Marianne Turcotte, Funeral Director, Prince Albert, SK 306-763-3322
Ronald Bort

April 5, 2020 at the age of 71 in Saskatoon, Ron passed away and the Disability Community lost an amazing volunteer and advocate. Ron was born October 9, 1948, in Yorkton, SK. He spent his childhood in Yorkton where he worked part time at the Yorkton Co-op, Canada Safeway and Canada Post. After completing Grade 12, he worked at Dowie's Stationary Yorkton & Moose Jaw, Bridge's Office Equipment,

April 5, 2020 at the age of 71 in Saskatoon, Ron passed away and the Disability Community lost an amazing volunteer and advocate. Ron was born October 9, 1948, in Yorkton, SK. He spent his childhood in Yorkton where he worked part time at the Yorkton Co-op, Canada Safeway and Canada Post. After completing Grade 12, he worked at Dowie's Stationary Yorkton & Moose Jaw, Bridge's Office Equipment, Humpty-Dumpty Potato Chips, Hostess Potato Chips, Pauline's Cookies and finally Interbake Foods/George Weston Ltd. He went on long-term disability in 1984 after been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Ron used a scooter full time, but that did not stop him from having a van equipped for him to drive himself and his wife to many places (they travelled throughout Canada and the United States, but their favorite destination was the stadium in Regina to cheer on their beloved Roughriders). Ron was an avid volunteer and provided support for the Sask Voice of People with Disabilities (SK VOICE), the North Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre (NSILC), the Bridge City Rider Fan Club, the Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan (formerly Canadian Paraplegic Association), National AccessAbility Week and the Saskatoon Airport Ambassadors and Saskatoon Airport Authority Committee. Through his children, Ron had also been involved with Sea Cadets, Navy League Cadets and the Air Cadet Squadrons. Ron's grandchildren brought such joy to him and he tried to see them as much as possible. He also loved to read the newspaper and do Sudoku puzzles. Ron was known and appreciated by the Saskatchewan Disability Community for his long-term advocacy and contributions. SCI Sask recognizes Ron, and his wife Margie for their outstanding volunteerism and pioneers of the “Include Me” philosophy of people living with disabilities.

Born on October 11, 1935, and raised on a farm near Melville, Saskatchewan, Blenda was the eldest of five children. She and her siblings attended a one room school house aptly named “Success School” until the age of 16, when she was stricken by Polio. Blenda was hospitalized and quarantined for six months during her rehabilitation before returning home to find a new wheelchair which had been purchased by the Community.

Born on October 11, 1935, and raised on a farm near Melville, Saskatchewan, Blenda was the eldest of five children. She and her siblings attended a one room school house aptly named “Success School” until the age of 16, when she was stricken by Polio. Blenda was hospitalized and quarantined for six months during her rehabilitation before returning home to find a new wheelchair which had been purchased by the Community. Through perseverance and determination, Blenda completed high school via correspondence and participated in Sunday school by mail. In the last few years of her life, when Blenda was again physically limited by Post-Polio, she became adept with social media and used it to stay in touch with family and friends.    Blenda never complained or let her challenges deter her from her goals. She worked tirelessly rehabilitating and eventually sold her wheelchair and with the proceeds from the chair she purchased a typewriter and soon found employment as a switchboard operator at the Times- Herald Newspaper office in Moose Jaw where she met Fred, a writer. It was with much fondness and humour that Blenda teased that Fred was initially attracted to her because of her typewriter. They married in 1957 and resided in Red Deer, AB for two years prior to moving to Regina, where they raised their family.    Blenda was a strong advocate for the disabled in her community. She was a productive member of an Access Committee for the City of Regina and volunteered many years with a Polio Support Group. Blenda helped to raise funds for the completion of an elevator and other features that made her church accessible. Her ongoing work for the disabled was honoured when she received an invitation to meet Princess Anne at a March of Dimes celebration.   In addition to raising a young family, Blenda wrote her own Cookbook and was an avid gardener spending many hours in her greenhouse that Fred built. Blenda’s middle name was “Joy,” which was something that she brought to all within her circle. Her infectious laugh and light heartedness brought “joy” to many. When her children were older Blenda commenced employment and eventually worked as a secretary at Christ Lutheran Church, where she stayed until her retirement in 1999. She was guided by a strong belief in God and her spiritual beliefs were evident in how she lived her life as an honest, loving and caring person.    Blenda and Fred travelled Canada from coast to coast. But, the greatest pleasure was when she was with friends and family attending weddings, funerals or family reunions. Blenda was known and appreciated for hosting numerous celebrations and family gatherings in their back yard or around the dining room table. We will miss you Nanna Banana and the Roughriders, Blue Jays and Curlers have lost one of their biggest fans. The family is very grateful to Blenda’s wonderful caregivers at Harbour Landing Village. Blenda passed peacefully at Regina General Hospital on Thursday, May 7, 2020, where she was able to be with her family virtually and physically at the time of her passing.
Annabelle Kaukinen

“Look past the wheelchair—at the person. Don’t assume that because someone is in a wheelchair they’re helpless, unable to cope without
assistance.” Anyone who spent any time with Annabelle knew that she was frank and forthright about the things she needed help with and it was always clear, very clear, that she needed no assistance with thinking.

“Look past the wheelchair—at the person. Don’t assume that because someone is in a wheelchair they’re helpless, unable to cope without assistance.” That was the opening sentence of a Regina Leader Post article featuring Annabelle in March, 2001. “People assume they have to look after us; that we can’t do things. People see the chair instead of the person,” Annabelle said, “Non- disabled people have a tendency to want to do the thinking for those with a disability.” Anyone who spent any time with Annabelle knew that she was frank and forthright about the things she needed help with and it was always clear, very clear, that she needed no assistance with thinking. The words, “I can’t,” were not a part of her personal vocabulary. She was an active, creative, and powerful person that we grew to respect and love. Annabelle Mae Kaukinen was born December 15, 1938 in Wapella, Saskatchewan. She was the first of two children born to Alice and Wilhand Kaukinen. She and her brother, Brian, were raised on a farm in the community of “New Finland” in southern Saskatchewan. When Annabelle was very young, her father passed away. Her mother later married Charlie Godwin. Annabelle admired Charlie for taking on a new wife and two young children. He fathered them as if they were his own flesh and blood. Because of a brain injury of undetermined origin, Annabelle became disabled at a very young age. Growing up, she spent a good deal of time in institutions. That’s how people with physical disabilities were too often treated, warehoused apart from mainstream society. In 1969, she graduated from Marian High School in Regina. For most of her life, Annabelle chose to live independently and did so with style and grace. She loved learning and completed a correspondence course from Christian Writer’s Institute in Chicago. She took courses in Journalism and Biblical Studies from Canadian Bible College in Regina and completed a Health Record Administration course from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. She took additional courses regarding job development, counselling and conflict management. Assertiveness Training was on her resume. I’m not sure when she took that course. It seems clear to me that in fact Annabelle could teach assertiveness training! She had various jobs over the years: receptionist at Sunset Extendicare, Health Records work for St. Paul’s Hospital and Manager of Huston Heights and of Myrcall Answering Service to name a few. From 1984 to 1989, she was an Audio Switcher working on Hansard, the official record of the Saskatchewan Legislature. She was on various boards including the Argyle Park Housing Co-op and the Disabled Women’s Network.Her final working years were spent as an Education and Training Facilitator with South Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre. Annabelle received numerous awards. Some of these were:  Knights of Columbus Award for Fortitude (1969)  Academic Achievement Award (1970)  Mayor’s Award for Volunteerism (1992)  Council of Canadians with Disabilities Award (1995)  Shelley Grunerud Memorial Award (1995) In addition to all these and other accolades, in 2011, she was a Regina YWCA Woman of Distinction in the area of Community Leadership and 3 Enhancement. Annabelle’s legacy is as a role model for people with disabilities and a lifelong teacher and advocate.

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