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In Memorium

MAY 2016 - Marisol Desbiens

Pictured: Marisol Desbiens

It is with heavy heart that we acknowledge the passing of Marisol Desbiens. She will be greatly missed. Marisol was a dedicated leader, role model, and friend to many in our community.

Marisol was an active peer speaker with OHSUTP; touching and informing the lives of many service providers while sharing her lived experience during trainings throughout the GTA.

She was actively involved with HIV communities in Ontario, in particular with Latinos Positivos and the Teresa Group.

Marisol was also a part of the Fife House family (where OHSUTP works out of) for many years.  She was a Peer Research Assistant having worked on Positive Spaces Healthy Places (in partnership with the OHTN), the Transitional Housing Study, and the Women and HIV Aging Study. She was a Peer Navigator in the Homeless Outreach Program and was also a past member of the Fife House Board.  

Her compassion and dedication to the work and cause was boundless. A true leader, she was an inspiration to all who came in contact with her. She was very engaged in many different settings in the sector and her sudden loss has touched and impacted us all.

We will greatly miss her smiling face and depth of passion to help build capacity within the community.

DECEMBER 2015 - Wilfred Pott

Pictured: Wilfred Pott and his partner Anne Chuchmuch

Wil shared his wisdom and life expereinces in OHSUTP workshops when we were in Thunder Bay. Despite years of problematic substance use and jail time, he had been able to turn things around and always shared his insights with a friendly smile and sense of humour. He passionately helped others and had a wonderful rapport and way with people.

Wil and his partner Anne died tragically in a house fire. Both were well known and respected in Thunder Bay. He was a front-line support worker for Shelter House and Anne was on the board of directors of the Kiwanis Club of Thunder Bay where Wil also volunteered.

"These two individuals had turned their lives around, and were attempting to help others do the same, so that is a loss for their families, friends, the community. These people were trying to make our community healthier, and that's a real loss," said Thunder Bay police chief J.P. Levesque.

MARCH 2013 - André Dupéré

Pictured: André Dupéré, Nick Boyce (OHSUTP), and Colleen Price

In March of 2013, the Ontario HIV and Substance Use Training Program lost one of its beloved peers, André Dupéré. André had been a speaker for OHSUTP for over 3 years and passed away peacefully in his home of Ottawa, Ontario. Below are passages written in his honour by Provincial Director, Nick Boyce, and Provincial Trainer, CC Sapp. André will be truly missed by our program, his family, his peers, and the thousands of lives he has touched by sharing his story.

From Nick Boyce:

I start today with a heavy heart. I learned late last night that a wonderful man is no longer with us… André Dupéré... One of the most compassionate, gutsy, and honest human beings I have ever known.

I met André through work… He would co-facilitate workshops we ran when in Ottawa… He shared his experiences with homelessness, substance use, incarceration, and living with HIV and Hep C with the participants of our training sessions. He did so with grace and wisdom, poetic and colourful language, and – of course – a wicked sense of humour.

You could not help but listen when he started a story… He told tales with such openness and raw honesty… they left you either aching or laughing hysterically.

Despite all the hard times André had faced, he seemingly held no grudges… He wanted to help people understand, empathize, and have compassion for others. And he did… Participants in workshops where he spoke would tell us about the positive impact he had on them.

André was someone that showed change really is possible, that we should never give up on others, that no matter how hard someone falls, they can get back up, and that truth never lies.

I will miss his energy, his smile, his insights, his stories, and his styling hats.

RIP mon ami… You did good.

From CC Sapp:

Words can’t describe the sadness that filled me when I learned of the passing of André. He was one of the most inspiring people I ever worked with. He spoke with poetic passion and constantly challenged himself to do things that he loved, whether it was drawing something every day or writing a poem. I remember his humour and his smile. He had such a life history that brought out in him this rich wisdom that he so happily shared with others. Working with him, he was a wonder to watch as he shared his life experiences with the participants in the room. I watched as people nodded, listened, and learned. Hanging out with him I noticed how if there was someone cold, he was the first to offer his jacket for warmth. Not having much money, he insisted on buying me flowers anyway. He loved his morning coffees so I got him a gift card to Tim Horton’s. Of course, being Andre, he used it to buy the participants in the training donuts. He always wanted to give to others.

I have with me a drawing that he gave me when I was in Ottawa. I treasured it and had it framed. The next time I saw him he was excited that he had another drawing that he wanted to give me. However, when he went and got his morning coffee he accidentally left the drawing at the counter and left without it. When he told me, he wasn’t upset in the slightest. He simply said, “Someone else was meant to have it. I hope it brings them joy.”

This is the kind of man André was and this is how I will remember him. A man of honesty, a man of passion, a man of creativity, and a man who went out of his way to give to others when he, himself, had so little.

To André: You are the kind of person I admire and will always strive to be. In your short life, know that you have touched the hearts of many and have accomplished more than anyone could even dream of. I wish you peace, joy, and lots more opportunities to share yourself with the people who surround you now. I will miss you, but I know that now others are basking in your true compassion.

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