FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Wayne Turnbull
April 14, 2015
What has contributed most to your success? “My general outlook on life - I did a lot of things. When any difficulty comes my way, I get through it. And humour.”
What has held you back? “Not going to university – I should have continued my schooling.”
He amazes me …
“Nothing is more important to you than loving, and dealing with adversity – you have to deal with the cards you are dealt.”
Rugby, sports cars, fishing, working hard, playing hard – a great life. While on a ten week motoring holiday in Baltimore area, a trip he remembers from having visited fifty-seven different family members and friends … “the day I got home I felt a ringing in my ears, and I was blind”.
He lost his leg in 1997, his sight in 2000. He’s had two kidney transplants and a quadruple heart by-pass. His once bulky 200lb. rugby player’s frame is gaunt now. Not many teeth left. He’s still laughing, though not as heartily, at life and all it has thrown his way.
Wayne had a childhood sports injury (he was thirteen) – impaled his groin area on a fire hydrant while running to catch a fly ball in a neighbourhood baseball game. Recovery in hospital came with a doctor’s warning that the injury to his pancreas and kidney had made him an ‘instant diabetic’ which could lead to high risk of typical diabetes related problems for vision, hearing, circulation and heart troubles later in life – and Wayne attests to having every one of those problems.
The first time I met Wayne Turnbull he attended a meeting of my Toastmasters club – about ten years ago. He was fairly new at public speaking then, as was I, but you would not know it from his presentation. He entered the room with an aide – someone who guided him around the room. We were advised that Wayne was blind, deaf in one ear and didn’t hear all that well out of the other. He had an artificial leg, was on his 2nd kidney transplant and had quadruple heart by-pass. And he looked very much like any of my contemporaries – perhaps a little older, but given the ravages of diabetes on his body – looking pretty good. A former jock – a bulked up rugby player, a kid who did all the sports.
And his speech – obviously done without notes, was marvelous. These days Wayne is less active in Toastmasters due to his health but he still gives many speeches, particularly to seniors groups, service clubs and people involved in the deaf/blind community.
And such a short while ago, Wayne was an active member of the Calgary business community.
Lets go back and catch the story from the beginning:
Wayne was born in Birch Grove, Cape Breton – 5 minutes from the Atlantic. His mother was a farm worker, dad was a coal miner (he ran the donkey 2 ½ miles under the ocean). He is #2 of 5 children. His parents moved to Ontario to work in the Campbell soup plant in Toronto but Wayne stayed with his Grandmother in Glace Bay. Later on Wayne joined his family – and there were numerous job moves in the Toronto area, then Winnipeg where dad worked for Gray Beverage and mom worked for Wisers. Later on Wayne’s parents moved to Calgary and were involved in business with Wayne. They were both killed in a car accident in 1997.
Wayne’s school days in Georgetown – an average student – he played all sports. After the family moved to Winnipeg he finished school, took a Columbia School of Broadcasting course in hopes of a radio career …
He returned to Georgetown – dated [“I was a great dancer. I was a bit cocky”], married his high school sweetheart in 1970, and soon after moved to Calgary where his parents had relocated.
Wayne’s work life involved Nortel and Ford factory work, trucking and bottled water businesses in Calgary, and working in the helicopter business until he lost his sight. Since then he’s been in several businesses involving fishing tours [Mr. T’s Trout Tours] – welcoming tourists to trout fishing on the Bow River, which he ran together with his wife and a small staff. But those days are gone now …
He doesn’t travel much anymore. “Traveling is visual …”
How have you done it? “My wife. She was our 1967 high school prom queen, has been a stalwart at my side – the peach in my life, she’s never let me down, she’s never lost her attitude. Because of my injury I could never have kids. She’s never complained.”
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… not very much. There is always something happening in my body – but there isn’t much for me to worry about. I worry about what’s going to happen to my wife when I’m gone.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
... Mr. Beer, a teacher who ran the detention room in high school. He made us write stories. I got one published in the year book. I write for myself. I’ve started two books … I write short stories, some of which have been published. A fire hydrant. Toastmasters – and a speaker I heard at my first meeting who inspired me …
… fishing. I’ve been fishing since I was twelve years old. I still fish on family outings. I used to love Toastmasters. I still speak about deaf/blind issues. I’ve done speeches for the United Way .. 67 of them I think at last count.
What do you read?
… lots! .. audio books, talking books of course. I usually pick up fourteen each trip to the library. I spend all my spare time ‘reading’. I like conspiracy, WWII, biographies, Dick Francis Books, Lee Child … I ‘read’ while I’m doing the dishes, doing the laundry …
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