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In Memoriam: A Tribute to Past AEBC Activists

Editor's Note: As the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (formerly the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality) celebrates its 20th anniversary, we wish to recognize the invaluable contributions made by past members. By devoting their time, talents, skills and energy to the NFB:AE/AEBC, and to the blindness/disability rights movement as a whole, they have helped to promote full and equal participation of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted persons in Canada. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, the individuals below are representative of the commitment, leadership and excellence shown by NFB:AE/AEBC members over our 20-year history.

Tom Dear, British Columbia

Tom Dear was a strong supporter of National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality philosophy. With his wife and fellow NFB:AE member, Gillian, he formed the Audio Book Club and the VIP Social Group for blind people in Salmon Arm. Mr. Dear passed away in 1993.

Dorothy Stossel, Ontario

Dorothy Stossel was an active member of the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality’s Toronto Chapter. Her contributions, both to the NFB:AE and to other blindness-related organizations, were many, and without any fanfare or recognition. She was well respected and loved by fellow NFB:AE members, and is remembered for never missing a Toronto Chapter garage sale! Ms. Stossel’s death was announced in the Spring 1999 edition of the Canadian Blind Monitor.

John Goodfellow, Nova Scotia

John Goodfellow began serving others at a young age when he served his country in the Korean War. Over the years, he volunteered many hours with the Royal Canadian Legion, the CNIB’s Blind and Sighted Couples Club, and the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality, Where he was Co-Chair of the National Fundraising Committee and a dedicated member of the Toronto Chapter. He also liaised with government officials and provided logistical assistance at NFB:AE Conferences. Professionally, he worked for many years for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), where he took special interest in assisting passengers with disabilities. Passing away in 1999, Mr. Goodfellow is remembered as a kind, caring, helpful and humorous person.

Elizabeth Coates, Ontario

Elizabeth Coates, who is remembered for her indomitable spirit and sense of humour, was a founding member of the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality’s Toronto Chapter in 1995. She served as the Toronto Chapter’s first President, and also as Vice President on the NFB:AE’s National Board of Directors. Ms. Coates, in addition, participated on NFB:AE’s Committee on Prescriptions and Braille. She passed away in 2000.

Alan Henry Neville, British Columbia

Alan Neville was one of the founding members of the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (NFB:AE) in 1992. Not only did he serve as the organization’s first Vice President and later (1999) as a Director at Large, but he was also the Editor of the first three editions of the Canadian Monitor (now the Canadian Blind Monitor) from 1993 to 1995. Locally, he was very active in the NFB:AE’s Central Okanagan Chapter, where he served as Vice President for several terms. He was instrumental in compiling the NFB:AE’s first set of by-laws and designing its first fundraising program. Mr. Neville passed away in Kelowna in 2002. The NFB:AE later named one of its scholarships for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted post-secondary students in his honour.

Barry Bridgeman, Manitoba

Barry Bridgeman was a member of the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality in Winnipeg, and was involved in the cross-disability and blindness movements for many years. He was a Board member of Reaching Equality Employment Service, and was on the Independent Living Resource Centre's Board as the representative of the Manitoba League of the Physically Handicapped (later the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities). In Winnipeg, he worked with the CaterPlan service run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Barry Bridgeman passed away in 2002.

Rick Oakes, British Columbia

Rick Oakes and his wife became members of the National Federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (now the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians) in 1994. Rick served on the National Board as 2nd Vice President and Director at Large, and was instrumental in helping the NFB:AE/AEBC begin independent fundraising. He also held positions on Boards of other non-profit organizations, such as President of the Western Association of the Visually Handicapped. Earlier, he worked for CaterPlan, a division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and later as a District Office Manager. Mr. Oakes passed away in 2007, and the NFB:AE/AEBC later named one of its scholarships for blind post-secondary students in his honour.

Dr. Gerry Dirks, British Columbia

Dr. Gerry Dirks was Professor of Political Science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, for 30 years, and then Visiting Professor at the University of Victoria after his retirement. Besides being a member of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians’ Victoria Chapter, he was actively involved in the Vancouver CNIB Blind Men's Club, and he was also a major player in the establishment of VoicePrint Canada, a division of the National Broadcast Reading Service, having been its first National Board Chair. Dr. Dirks, who died in 2008, is remembered for his selfless service and dedication.

Theresa Andrews, British Columbia

Theresa Andrews, who passed away in 2008, was President of NFB:AE/AEBC's Lower Mainland Chapter in Vancouver for many years. She also served on the Boards of VoicePrint Canada and PAWS International Resource Center, and was a member of BC Blind Sports and the Western Association of Persons with Vision Impairments. Ms. Andrews had worked as a counsellor at CNIB's Bowen Lodge; braille transcription and computer technologist at Crane Library, University of British Columbia; and teaching assistant in Vancouver Community College's Vision Program.

Don Jacobs, Ontario

Don Jacobs, who passed away in 2008, was a founding member of the Toronto Chapter of the National federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality (now the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians). In late 1994, he and his wife Bubbles spoke to everyone they knew who was blind, and even stopped strangers on the street who were using white canes, to drum up interest and support for establishing NFB:AE’s Toronto Chapter, a Chapter that came into existence in January 1995. Mr. Jacobs is remembered for his kindness, humour and enthusiasm.

Marjorie Fulton, Manitoba

Marjorie Fulton was an advocate on accessibility issues for people with disabilities, including working with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and sitting on the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians’ Copyright Subcommittee. During her lifetime, she was involved in the Winnipeg and Manitoba Public Library System’s development of an inter-library loan service, whereby talking- and commercially produced audio books were made available; the implementation of audible pedestrian signals in Ottawa, Ontario; and the development of standards for accessible bank machines in Canada. Professionally, she worked with the Canada Human Rights Commission and with the Employment Equity program of Human Resource and Development Canada. Ms. Fulton passed away in 2009.

Ainley Bridgeman, Manitoba

Ainley Bridgeman was a longtime advocate for equality and accessibility rights for persons with disabilities. Her many involvements included Access Guide Canada, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, the Independent Living Resource Centre, and the Inter-Organizational Access Committee. Ms. Bridgeman passed away in 2010.