Free Press
Family urges advocacy for seniors in care
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Family urges advocacy for seniors in care

Sometimes while a loved one is being cared for in their final years of life, or when they are dying, their family sees things happening around them that aren’t right.

In recent months, people have used the obituaries of family members to shine a spotlight on the need for more addiction services. Urge for more vaccinations to stop the spread of COVID-19. And for the government to provide more mental health care.

The family of Ron Probetts, who died on Feb. 6 at 90, also saw a problem and they used his obituary as a call for action into the care — or lack of care — in the province’s personal care homes and other care for seniors.

At the bottom of the obituary, and in capital letters, it says, "Our family urges everyone who has a loved one in a personal care home to be an advocate for them and visit often."

Our provincial government and health authorities need to address the understaffing crisis in home care and provide immediate support to nurses and health care aides.”

I don’t know what the family saw, or what Probetts faced during his final days, but it’s too bad this happened to him because he was such a vibrant member to this community a few decades before.

Probetts was one of the executives for Canada’s national hockey team, then based in Winnipeg, which represented the country in Olympics and at international tournaments.

He had a passion for sports and worked with Father David Bauer who, during his time, was against the use of professional hockey players on the team. The team won the bronze medal at the 1968 Winter Olympics.

Probetts was appointed to handle promotions for the team and he later created a booster club of its most ardent fans. He also managed a string of travel agencies — he was a manager at Atlas Lance Travel — and was the official travel agent for the Winnipeg Jets when the World Hockey Association was formed.

Still later, Probetts was vice-president of what is now called CAA Manitoba.

Earlier in life, Probetts joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served in the Korean War on the HMCS Cayuga.

The obituary is silent as to whether Probetts knew, or was treated by, the ship’s infamous "surgeon" at that time. That was American imposter Fred Demara who took the name of a real Canadian doctor to masquerade as a trauma surgeon aboard the ship — even performing several operations on both Canadian sailors and soldiers until he was found out and deported back to the United States.

It’s too bad we can’t talk to him about that now.

In the years after Probetts left the navy, he got married and had a son and daughter. Much later, he taught travel at Robertson Career College and worked as a commissionaire at both the Winnipeg Airport and the Canada Revenue Agency.

Probetts’ family also had one final comment about his care when thanking people.

“The family would like to thank certain special nurses, aides, recreational staff of Bethania Personal Care Home who took special care of our father… you know who you all are.”

Besides his son and daughter, Probetts is survived by 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Read more about Ron. 

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

It’s Louis Riel day on Feb. 21, but just a few days before one of his relatives died.

Allan Riel’s roots in St. Vital went back more than 100 years to a founder of Manitoba and one of the country’s Fathers of Confederation.

Riel, who died on Feb. 3, lived in St. Vital his entire life and volunteered much of his time at the Glenwood Community Centre and for both the major and minor St. Vital hockey clubs.

His relation to Riel? Allan was Louis’ great nephew. Read more about Allan. 



David Margolis was a prominent criminal lawyer here back in the 1980s and 1990s.

But Margolis, who was 81 when he died on Feb. 6, learned his people skills decades earlier.

Margolis said his ability to relate to people was acquired by delivering groceries from this parents’ grocery store on his bicycle during school lunch hours.

The provincial government recognized Margolis’ skill as a lawyer and honoured him by appointing him a Queen’s Counsel in 1990.



Miriam Bergen’s dad founded the company which built the ornate Fort Garry Place — and she later headed it.

Bergen, who died on Jan. 30, was raised in the family business — her dad was Martin Bergen.

So, after he died and she became president of Edison Properties, she had already learned from him how to treat the more than 200 employees at the company.

And she continued the company’s building and developing, creating Smith Street Lofts, Ruth Gardens, and the soon to be completed Bergen Gardens. Read more about Miriam. 



Bill Chubaty was literally the candyman.

Chubaty, who was 85 when he died on Feb. 6, was born in Stuartburn, about 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, and grew up on a farm.

He moved to Winnipeg and got a job here. But not just any job.

Chubaty worked as a candy maker at Paulin Chambers for more than three decades making candy and rose to become a supervisor there. Paulin Chambers was known for producing Cuban Lunch among other treats. Read more about Bill. 



Generations of Winnipeggers ate meals — or had functions catered — thanks to Luigi D’Abramo.

D’Abramo, who died on Feb. 7 at 82, was born in Italy and came to Canada when he was only 13 years of age.

He began working in the restaurant and hospitality industry and by 1961, when he was only in his early twenties, he opened Luigi’s Restaurant and Catering on Erin Street.

D’Abramo’s business had great success through the decades and it is still open today. Read more about Luigi.


A Life’s Story

William Gordon was not just a music teacher at Brandon University — he was a builder there.

Gordon, who was 75 when he died on Oct. 14 , helped design the university’s Queen Elizabeth II Music Building in the 1980s.

Bill Gordon in 1981 conducting the BU Show Band at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair; he’s wearing his Manitoba tartan jacket from the 1979 Canada Winter Games held in Brandon. (Supplied)

“He knew every detail of that building,” said Kathie, Gordon’s wife, in a recent Free Press interview.

“Like how many scores could fit on a shelf in the ensemble library.”

Long before that, Gordon was born in England and learned piano before playing the French horn — which helped him play with the Beatles. His horn is one of the instruments you can hear on the title track of the Beatles’ masterpiece album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — go give it a spin in his honour.

Read more about Gordon’s life.



Until next time, I hope you continue to write your own life’s story.



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