(October 26, 1953 – January 4, 2023)
I write this piece to honour and remember a great man and colleague, Stephen Trumper. As his obituary suggests, “Stephen’s life was one punctuated by moments of intense joy and extreme sorrow. Alas, the best person to summarize his life would be Stephen himself: he would have the brevity and good sense to know what to highlight and what to leave out. Such was his tremendous skill with pen, keystroke and voice”… a gift he didn’t hesitate to share.
Stephen was a deeply respected editor, instructor, mentor for the hundreds of students he taught and an advocate for people with disabilities. And he was an especially powerful champion of the written word, using it to bring both understanding and compassion to the cause of disability inclusion in Canada.
I first met Stephen nearly 15 years ago when I joined the board of the Canadian Abilities Foundation. He showed me how even the most difficult of life journeys can be undertaken with determination and grace. His passion for polite activism and inclusion set the benchmark for all of us who volunteered alongside him at CAF to produce Abilities Magazine. (He certainly didn’t mince words—especially when it came to my own writing abilities!) He encouraged us to find, and use our voices for real change.
Like Stephen, over the years, I’ve had my share of hospital visits. We shared the poignant experience of growing up and living with a disability in a world not quite ready for us to live well beyond our childhood years. In one of his final columns in Abilities, he shared his frustrations with our medical system and how it continues to stigmatize and stereotype older adults and people living with physical and cognitive disabilities.
“Folks like me are medically complicated. It takes time and empathy to understand how our inner workings really work. Too often assumptions are made about us without ever talking to us. Too often we are ignored and denied assistance.” These words, like so many of his other columns over the years, deeply resonate with me and within the Canadian disability community.
Many of us will fondly remember breakfast meetings at the Senator or the quiet Starbucks tucked in the old Sears at the Eaton Centre. But, and I quote again, “to truly understand Stephen’s life is to know about this true love, his “girl” Judith Wilson, the woman who captured his heart and soul from that first moment they met on the most gorgeous day in the summer of 1979. They overcame Steve’s many health complications and surgeries and Judy’s devastating Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2013. Through it they continued to talk, connect, provide care, support and comfort to one another. Their love extended with the birth of daughter Hannah in 1985 despite Stephen’s fear of becoming a father with a physical disability.” Today, Hannah is her father’s daughter, sharing not only the same values and sometimes dark sense of humour but also his love of working in media and communications.
As we move forward without Steve, let us remember the legacy he left behind—that of a passionate and determined advocate who shared his wisdom with many and his time and energy in humble service of others.
Stephen will be greatly missed. But his influence will remain in my life, the lives of his family, his students, and all of those who were fortunate enough to have known him and read his articles.
Let us take solace in knowing that Stephen’s work will continue to be a source of strength and inspiration for all of us at the Canadian Abilities Foundation and Abilities Magazine.
Chair, Patron’s Council
Canadian Abilities Foundation