Normand Cholette July 19 1936 - November 26 1992
Born in Sudbury, Ontario, passed away in Hamilton, Ontario after a short yet valiant battle against pancreatic cancer.
My dad was the most wonderful man I have ever known. Although at times he was strict and stern, there was never a time that I ever doubted his love towards me. Our relationship may have had its ups and downs, but he was still the greatest man I have ever had the incredible fortune of spending my life with. He passed away (very quickly and painfully, yet with never a complaint or a whimper or an expression of fear) only six weeks after his initial diagnosis. I was only seventeen at the time, and it was so horrible watching a once strong, vibrant and active man suffer the way he did. I can't help but remember all the fun that we had together. Sporting events we went to, school outings and activities he donated his time to, the way he always seemed to find the time despite his busy work schedule and even when he was so ill, to attend something that meant a lot to me.
Early in my life, my father ran a bowling centre in Kitchener, Ontario. That doesn't seem like a great feat to most, but it ended up setting me up for the journey I would take later in my own life. While my dad was in charge, he had a volunteer that had Down Syndrome. Johnny was in his forties then and he was always at the bowling centre. Before my dad took over, the previous boss was very cruel towards those with disabilities and would not allow Johnny on his premises because he felt Johnny 'bothered' the other patrons and 'no one wanted to see a (insert R word here) hanging around all the time'. Once that manager left, my dad met with Johnny's sister and
invited him back to spend time at the centre. Not only did my dad let him hang out there, he also gave him small jobs and various tasks to preform. And Johnny always did them with such pride! My dad had given him a small sense of importance and independence in an often dark and mean world. My dad also set up special days where severely disabled children could come in with their caregivers and bowl. This was often the only outing for these kids and my dad was so caring and compassionate with them. Supportive and friendly without belittling them or pitying them.
When I was thirty...long after my beloved dad passed away...I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy who would, after a month on this earth, be diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Four years later, he would also be diagnosed with Autism (non verbal). I truly believe that if it wasn't for witnessing my dad being so compassionate, patient and loving to Johnny and those children at the bowling centre, I would not be able to deal with the cards that I have been given. He taught me so much by having those with developmental and physical disabilities as a part of our lives.
I know he's looking down at his grandson with love and pride. And that they would have been the best of buddies. My dad would not have pitied my son or turned away from him, he would have helped me nurture him and loved him with all his being.
I miss my dad so very much. Even after all of these years. I'd give anything to have him back.