Funeral services were held last week for Gaston Curial, who died Oct. 5, at the age of 84 after a lengthy illness. Gaston was a lifelong St. Albert resident, having been born in 1930 on his parents’ farm near Big Lake. His contributions to his home community were many, especially when it came to helping those who were living with a challenging mental disability. Along with several other St. Albert families, Gaston started the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation.
“Our son Marc has Down Syndrome and Gaston started to worry about what would happen to him in the future. We knew other families in St. Albert who also had a disabled child and so that’s why we all met at our kitchen table. We pooled our resources and the result was Lo-Se-Ca,” Gaston’s wife, Ada, recalled, adding that her husband and many of the other fathers worked together to get government support and to figure out the costs.
“The men spent thousands of hours getting it started,” she said.
That meeting in 1990 did indeed set the table for the future Lo-Se-Ca Foundation. Initially the foundation rented one home to be shared by four individuals and their caregivers.
“It wasn’t easy. There were hurdles because it was a new idea. Now, the last report I heard, Lo-Se-Ca Foundation has 20 homes,” Ada said.
While client housing is still a major focus of the foundation, Lo-Se-Ca has grown and evolved so that it now offers day-support programs, employment placement and daily-living skills training. Lo-Se-Ca clients may also help in the Thrift Store, which helps support the organization.
The establishment of the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation was just one way that Gaston tried to help his son Marc as well as his family.
Marc was severely disabled as a baby and the family was told he might never walk. Gaston learned of an innovative rehabilitative program that in the 1960s was new. A similar program soon became part of the Curial household’s daily routine as Marc’s siblings, his parents his babysitters and neighbours came in to help him move his limbs.
“I remember Dad getting us all in line and crawling around being bears. He’d come home from work and we’d do that. Marc was able to walk thanks to that,” daughter Jocelyne Kettner recalled.
Marc attended the Winnifred Stewart School in Edmonton and for two years Gaston served on the board there.
“He was the kind of man, who, if you asked him, couldn’t say, ‘No,’” Ada said.
His willingness to step up and take responsibility led to the establishment of a chapter of Faith and Light in St. Albert. The non-denominational organization established by Jean Vanier has now spread to 77 countries and Gaston served as a representative on the Canadian committee at several international conferences.
While he was generous with his time, he was compassionate too, especially when he saw others in need.
“At one conference, in Paris, one representative was brought in on a kitchen chair. Because he had no wheelchair, they had to carry him everywhere. Gaston felt so sorry for him, that night, he went out and found a place to purchase a wheelchair for the man,” Ada recalled.
His daughter recalled how Gaston often instigated the fun at the family cottage and at their acreage home just east of the former Hole’s farm.
“He retired early and he took up hobbies like teaching himself to play the guitar and learning Spanish. Even before he retired, he was always the one to organize the parties, especially his staff parties,” Kettner said.
As a philanthropist, Gaston supported many causes close to his heart, especially those that could help his son.
“There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his son,” Ada said.
Gaston Curial is lovingly remembered by his wife Ada, and by his children: Marie-Blanche Mitchell, Michelle Curial-Hebert (Andre), Elyse Selig (Peter), Jocelyne Kettner (Ken) and his beloved son, Marc, as well as eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.