Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lawrence "Larry" Bibby - disability activist passes away - rest in peace

Lawrence Bibby - 1942-2012
My friend Lawrence Bibby - a dedicated activist for the rights of people with disabilities - has sadly passed away.

Lawrence was known as Larry in his earlier life as a layout and design worker at College Printers, where I first met him in 1975 as a young student journalist working at the University of BC student newspaper The Ubyssey.

In those days, Larry was a total character - a strong unionist, intensely interested in politics and world affairs and outspoken on just about anything you wanted to discuss!

At the time, paste up was done manually with waxed galleys, X-Acto knives, rollers and a keen sense of perspective.  It was also a unionized environment, which meant that the student journalists might write, edit and design the paper but the College Printers staff did all the paste up.

Larry many times looked at one of us who was nudging a galley of type or photo on the page and said: "Touch that again and you'll be pulling my X-Acto knife out of your hand!  That's my job!"

Journalists past and present from The Ubyssey like Tom Hawthorn, Rolf Maurer, Chris Gainor, Mike Bocking, Bob Krieger, Sue Vohanka, Marcus Gee, Heather Conn, Doug Rushton and many, many more worked with Larry in those years.

[It was also so long ago that our classified ads were still set in hot lead type!  The enormous changes since then in newspaper production make those days seem pre-historic - but they were a fantastic opportunity to learn how to work with a great crew of printers and remember that while we were volunteers, this was their career.]

Lawrence later developed multiple sclerosis, which ended his working life but not his deep passion for social justice.

When the innovative Chimo Achievement Centre in Coquitlam was facing closure in early 2010 due to Fraser Health Authority cutbacks, Lawrence sprang in to action, organizing people with disabilities to fight the Authority and the BC Liberal government.

Chimo operated a healthcare program that helped keep people with serious disabilities like MS, muscular dystrophy, brain injuries and other illnesses out of hospital by offering a variety of rehabilitation, physical and mental exercises that made them both healthier and happy.

And all this was done on a tiny budget of just $165,000 a year - an amount less than half the $466,000 salary of the Fraser Health CEO Dr. Nigel Murray.

Lawrence spearheaded an online petition, protests, a Facebook page, letter writing to government and health authority officials and more.  He also encouraged and organized Chimo clients and staff not to go without out a fight.

Both the BC Coalition for People with Disabilities and the MS Society strongly opposed the closure, inspired by the grassroots action Lawrence and his friends started.

I was honoured to be able to help Lawrence and the other wonderful people there get attention for their cause through my 24 hours/The Tyee column on Chimo and other advice.

Chimo clients also made a powerful YouTube video explaining why the program was so important to them - Lawrence's interview is at about 5:15 minutes into the video.

Unfortunately, Chimo was closed despite common sense and all those efforts.  I believe a future government will look back at its remarkable record of achievements and say - "why on earth was this closed?"

Lawrence said this to me - and I quoted him in my column: "This program saved my life.  It it's shut down, I'm going to go downhill fast." 

But Lawrence didn't give up.  He left Canada to have MS "liberation therapy" surgery in Mexico and reported to me that the initial results were astonishing. 

Sadly, Lawrence was later diagnosed with cancer, which ultimately claimed his life.   I deeply regret only learning Lawrence was in a hospice the day before he passed away - I had hoped to visit him when I found out.

But my memories of Lawrence and his fighting spirit remain.

An obituary guest book is online at the Vancouver Sun if anyone who knew Lawrence wants to pass on their condolences.

My own sympathies to all of Lawrence's family and friends - he will be greatly missed.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this Bill.
A lovely tribute to a vibrant, colourful, caring, compassionate, funny man. The first time I met him was in 1994, when I did a Therapeutic Recreation practicum at Chimo Achievement Centre. The mischievous twinkle in his eye, practical jokes/quirky sense of humour and lively personality - despite his MS - set the tone for a memorable and rewarding working relationship for both Lawrence (client) and me (therapist). He was passionate, kind, compassionate, giving of himself as a friend and teacher, and will be remembered with love by so many fellow Chimo friends/family (they really were like family). He will be missed. See you later "God willing and the creeks don't rise"!
~ Jo-Anne

J. Stainsby said...

BC Coalition OF People With Disabilities.... thanks for the memory..

Anonymous said...

Sad to see anyone pass awy, but geezus Bill.

A little heavy on the left wing and union politiking.

That could have used quite a bit of editing, to just highlight in summary his life and career and his accomplishments.

Rest in peace Lawerence, you did good.

Bill Tieleman said...

Sorry you feel compelled to be critical of me on this Anon 10:08 p.m. - but nothing I've said is untrue. I appreciate your closing comments however.

DPL said...

Your response was quite good Bill. A friend of yours and many others, died and you were showing your respect, Too bad anon 10:08 just had to make negative comment. Joanne said it better

Steven Bibby said...

Your article about my dad was right on the money Bill. He spoke of you often and I know he would have been as pleased with what you've written as I am. I really appreciate the way you've captured some of his good qualities and strong spirit.
Best regards,
Steven Bibby

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks very much Steven and most sorry for your loss. Your kind words about your dad and this article mean a lot to me.