Heartfelt donation to St. B

Trucking firm owner handing over $5M for cardiac research


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YOU might say Paul Albrechtsen's heart is into cardiac research at St. Boniface Hospital.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/04/2015 (2725 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

YOU might say Paul Albrechtsen’s heart is into cardiac research at St. Boniface Hospital.

Albrechtsen will become the most generous individual donor ever to the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation when he hands over a $5-million donation today.

It adds to the $2 million the owner of trucking firm, Paul’s Hauling, has previously given the foundation.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Paul Albrechtsen (centre), with Chuck LaFlèche (left) and Dr. Grant Pierce, says his donation to St. Boniface Hospital is for the community's future.

His motivation for donating is, in large part, the pacemaker inside his body that is monitored by the hospital’s cardiac doctors.

“If you have money, what are you going to do with it?” Albrechtsen asked recently. “I can’t take it with me. They say they’re going to put my name on the building (Albrechtsen Research Centre), but that’s not what is important. I give it for the community. I give it for the future.

“My forefathers did a good job in bringing in what we have now. It’s up to us, if we have the capability, to make sure we can take it further.”

Dr. Grant Pierce, the hospital’s executive director of research, called the donation “exciting.”

“Paul has decided he wants it to go to cardiovascular research and we will honour his wishes.”

Pierce said the interest generated from the donation into an endowment fund will pay for undergraduates, graduates and post-doctoral fellows to do cardiac research at the hospital.

“The heart of St. Boniface Hospital is cardiac research,” he said.

“It’s a big problem because it is still the No. 1 cause of death. But we are understanding it a whole lot more all the time.”

Chuck LaFlèche, the foundation’s president and CEO, said the gift from Albrechtsen “is transformational.”

“It will have an impact today. It will mean a quarter of a million more dollars a year for research here because the endowment fund will be larger.

“And (Albrechtsen) knows, because research has long-term results, while it won’t help him now, it will benefit many people in 10 or 15 years.”

Albrechtsen was born in Denmark and came to Canada in 1954 with only $50 in his pocket. The Danish government would not allow him to carry more because of its currency crisis. He showed signs of being an entrepreneur at a young age — when he was 10 he helped his family by raising and selling rabbits. He had 250 rabbits at one point.

Albrechtsen chose to immigrate to Manitoba because while Canada’s more populous areas had a waiting list of 10 months, this province’s was six weeks. Shortly after arriving in Winnipeg — and unable to speak English — he moved to Virden to take a job as a mechanic. It wasn’t long before Albrechtsen bought his first truck to haul water and oil for the drilling industry there. Soon, he had another truck and then another.

At one point, as owner of not just Paul’s but also Gardewine and Westcan Bulk Transport in Alberta, Albrechtsen owned 1,100 trucks.

Albrechtsen also developed a ski resort in Colorado called Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge. It was near there, in Aspen, that he had his first heart attack while skiing.

“I got a pain in my chest and I sat in the snow a while,” he said. Albrechtsen made his own way down and after flying back to Winnipeg, he was told he had suffered a heart attack.

Albrechtsen said he started working out at the Reh-Fit Centre and it was there he collapsed and staff had to use a defibrillator — which he had funded along with training staff how to use it — to revive him.

“They shocked me three times before I came back to life,” he said. “So I will always have a soft spot for the Reh-Fit Centre, too.”

Albrechtsen has nothing but praise for the doctors and staff who care for him at St. Boniface, which is why he wants to give back.

“I like to give with a warm hand rather than with a cold one,” he said.

“I worked hard in this country and the country has been very good to me.”


Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 7:59 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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