Richard Kall Remembered

June was Pride Month in Toronto, a time to celebrate the rights gained by gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual people, to celebrate the achievements of Queer people, and to acknowledge and restate the ongoing struggles they still experience in various aspects of society and in many (too many) countries. The Pride Parade on July 3rd, brought out a million celebrants, either marching or watching, all joyfully celebrating, and I was glad to be among the marchers.

On the May long weekend in 2000, I lost a wonderful friend and colleague who did not feel secure enough to “come out of the closet” to his friends and family. Richard Kall was an outstanding member of the executive team at Ontario March of Dimes. Our Chief Operating Officer, Richard had worked for CNIB for 17 years and had been with our agency for 7, overseeing all our regionally delivered programs, and our infrastructure departments. He was a big man with a big smile, a wonderful quirky sense of humour, a sharp intellect, and a generous huggable spirit. His choices in his closeted life were surprisingly unwise given his overall intelligence. One night, he took home a drug-using ex-con who robbed and killed him. He left so many people bereft. He left me wondering why he never trusted anyone with “his secret”. I promised myself that it should never happen again and that I work with Queers and their allies to end the need for anyone to ever keep one’s gender or sexual preferences a secret. Had Richard been openly and comfortably able to express his preference, I can imagine him in a life commitment to a loving man, maybe even raising children, entertaining his friends in his generous style and travelling widely, which he loved to do. His death was horrible and a big loss for March of Dimes and his family. That sentence is too repetitive.

Since that loss hit me hard, I have striven to recognize and support others who want to express their preference. Some members of the queer community still struggle accepting themselves, or suffer the consequence of informing others. March of Dimes like many organizations and institutions in the country employs many people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, even if they may not even know it. It should not matter in gaining and keeping employment.  At March of Dimes we had a young man a few years ago who was openly gay, and still uncomfortable that people might judge or ridicule him.  This came from his personal experiences. The number of senior people and staff at all levels who are LGBTQ is not known, but they have been significant in every area of our organization including finance, operations, fundraising, and services. We have benefitted from these competent and dedicated employees, and gender or sexual preference has nothing to do with it.

And what of our clients? Richard would have wanted to ensure that everyone was treated equitably and generously, with humanity at all times. He was sensitive and kind, always professional and instilled the same of others. Richard might be pleased that, several years after his death, March of Dimes entered a float in the Pride Parade, helping people with disabilities who are queer to participate and express themselves on our “accessibility” float. Does society acknowledge that people with disabilities might also be queer? I expect not; another frontier to cross. So many people, and most institutions don’t acknowledge people who have a disability or the elderly in their care as being sexual at all!

I write now to suggest we talk about it and recognize inherent discrimination exists in services and supports for older LGBTQ folks. Where are the welcoming seniors housing and nursing homes? Are there group homes for people with disabilities that also accept their being gay, lesbian or transgendered? Do we segregate people at an elderly stage of life who might have lived amicably in the community and now face discrimination in a supportive housing project or nursing home, due to ignorance or bias of workers, managers, and/or funders? Will faith based services show openness?

Walking in Pride is about walking with pride and I was proud to be an ally and join thousands of LGBTQ folks who are free to be in this society. I am greatly saddened by the prejudices that still persist in our society and in dozens of Middle Eastern, African and other countries that have yet to understand that all people–disabled, male, female, gay, lesbian or transgendered, albino, HIV infected, mentally ill, and of all colours—are people. No matter what God one believes in, she or he made us the way we are.

About modcpresident
I grew up in Calgary, where I completed a BA at the University of Calgary, then travelled and taught in Kenya and the Canadian Arctic during the heyday of Trudeaumania, hippie travel and social experimentation. I settled in Vancouver to complete a Master of Social Work degree at the University of British Columbia, and stayed another 8 years. After graduating I was a Social Planner and eventually became the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Ontario March of Dimes recruited me in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons and the 30th anniversary of the agency. It has grown from a budget of $5m in '81 to $100m in 2010. Services have expanded drafmatically. We incorporated a non profit housing corporation in 1992 and a national charity in 2001, and since 2006 the latter has operated as March of Dimes Canada. We own and operate several properties that provide accommodation and independent living services to 77 people in 4 municipalities and will add another property this year. Two other exciting non profit entities have been incorporated in my 30 years (yes, it has been 30 years!) and we expect to hold our first fundraiser in the US this year and to initiate our first service south of the border also. My role as President and CEO continues to be that of creating a vision, fulfilling the mission and developing strategic plans to meet an increasing demand for services from people with disabilities and their caregivers. This is achieved through direct service, advocacy and peer programs. On a personal note, I live with my 17 year old daughter and two cats, and enjoy their company a lot. My two adult sons are doing interesting exploration in their own lives and I am intrigued with how they are progressing. In my spare time, I have various volunteer roles on several non profit boards and committees, and enjoy creating programs for building awareness of diversity and disability. I think it has become true for me that youth is, while not "wasted on the young," something that I appreciate more with age. Adventures are physically more challenging for me now, so they have to occur in new dimensions.

11 Responses to Richard Kall Remembered

  1. Elizabeth Lounsbury says:

    Andria as I read your message I did it through tears. I was ill and in the hospital when Richard was killed. I still remember the exact moment when I received the call telling me about this terrible crime. He was a good kind loving person that did not deserve what happened to him. Was it because he was gay? We will never really know but even though he is no longer with us never do I enter 10 Overlea without thinking about him. One of the people I am closest to in this world is gay. She is partly in the closet and partly out, so at this point I cannot say who she is. What I can tell you is that she is a caring loving person. She cares about others no matter what their orientation .She goes out of her way to help others. I am proud to be seen with her and never ever think about her being gay. Do we walk with a person of the opposite sex and think about their sexually orientation? Of course not! So why do people have to think about orientation at all.
    I am proud to say here, that I on the Board of Directors for March of Dimes, where we fight to make this hard old world inclusive to all fellow human beings. Thank you for these words.

  2. Martha Brown says:

    I agree wholeheartedly! I am committed to being part of the solution and to that end will override my usual quiet nature to support those people who stand in judgement from those who do not yet understand that we are all one.

  3. TARIQ KHAN says:

    Thrilled to read your blogs and details about the MARCH OF THE DIME. I shall introduce about this great institution to URDU speaking Canadian through my articles. Shall always try to do fundraising efforts. Thank you and high regards……TARIQ KHAN.

  4. Gordon Floyd says:

    I didn’t know Richard, but as a 61 year old who’s been “out” for decades, I’ve had to face many of the prejudices that he feared. For me, fortunately, there’s been more success and happiness than trauma, but even after years of accomplishment and accolades I still have to handle every new acquaintance with caution until I learn whether they’re comfortable or hostile with someone who’s gay. Although our society (especially in urban Canada) has made stremendous strides towards acceptance during the past couple of decades, there is still much work to be done to ensure that gay, lesbian and trans people are appreciated as just another part of the wonderful diversity within our human family. Bravo to you, Andrea, and to MoD for your engagement at Pride and on behalf of equality for all.

  5. Linda Briggs says:

    Andria, I read your blog with keen interest. It’s a wonderful tribute to Richard and you’ve made many good points about acceptance and sexuality. While reading it, I thought of a couple of great initiatives that I have had the honour to learn about and encouraged our Foundation to support that had as their focus these very same issues: Augmentative Communication Community Partnerships Canada – developed and distributed a DVD and resource booklet across Ontario that supports people with severe communication disabilities so they can reduce their risk of being abused. (In the first grant to this project, it became apparent almost from day one that assumptions had to be put aside because many AAC users didn’t even have the language for their body parts or for anything related to sexuality, and had not had access to Sex Ed like other teens) The Speak Up project, and the follow-up Pointing It Out project, are making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities who use alternative communication.
    Springtide Resources currently houses a project that is giving people with disabilities control over their own adult lives by providing them and their personal service attendants with the skills to protect their sexual health and safety. I learned from the leaders of this project that a huge barrier to the basic human right of expressing one’s own sexuality can be the attitude/s of those who provide assistance/support to people with disabilities who rely on them daily to live their lives to the fullest. I’m really hoping that this project will result in better understanding between attendants and those they support about the role attendants can/must/should take in supporting individuals in expressing their sexuality – whatever that looks like! This is proving to be a much more difficult project than was first anticipated. As we know, breaking down attitudinal barriers is probably the most difficult of all – whether you are someone with a disability or not!
    I look forward to the day when there are many more people with disabilities participating in public celebrations of their sexuality…and to acceptance, and even celebration, of all our differences!

  6. Andria, it should be no surprise then why I enjoy working here so much, and feel so much gratification for all that we do. Having the pleasure of working with you for the past 9 years, and being an openly gay male, I’ve felt nothing but support, love and acceptance from my extended family here at March of Dimes.
    I didn’t have the pleasure of working with Richard, but heard of what an inspiration he was, and speaking from first-hand experience, can understand the inner turmoil he must have gone through when dealing with adversity and closed-mindedness. Having moved here from Newfoundland partly for that reason 23 years ago at the ripe old age of 17, I can relate. I am shocked at how some people’s views are still so closed minded, especially in rural areas, and in Countries where Government bodies don’t recognize or accept our union and orientation. It works from the top down, I firmly believe.
    Which is why we have made great strides in the past 2 decades here in Canada. My partner of 15 years and I are so grateful for all that is available to us, through being accepted as a couple, partnership, or one day soon (real soon!), a marriage, and being legally recognized as such. Something I never thought would see the light of day.
    But mostly we are grateful for people like you, Andria. You are so supportive and so giving to others, it’s a privilege to be working with you, and I look forward to many more years of celebrating successes with you. Thanks for all that you do, and for being you!

  7. Roman Kall says:

    It was with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye that I read your blog entry of July 19th about my brother Richard Kall. It is very gratifying to know that part of Richard’s legacy is embodied in your fine words. When I read the comments by other readers, my sadness was replaced with a sense of pride. I was and still am very proud of Richard’s achievements in his professional life and in his private life. Richard Kall was very proud of his association with and his contributions to the March of Dimes. Richard’s untimely death was senseless, and to use your words Andrea, “a big loss for March of Dimes and his family.”
    I applaud and support the ideals and goals of the March of Dimes in creating programs of assistance, education and inclusion no matter what the disability or special need. I’m convinced that ignorance, lack of consideration, prejudice and non-acceptance of diversity are the greatest disabilities our society faces today.
    Keep up the good work MoD. The organization is in the hands of bright, creative and capable people who are up to the challenge of breaking down barriers both attitudinal and physical.

  8. Deborah McPhedran says:

    Thank you so much for honouring Richard and holding true to the ideals both you and he always espoused. I miss him very much as you know, he was a wonderful friend and colleague and seemed to have the knack for a joke at just the right moment.

    Reading your blog, ensured I took some formal time to pause and reflect on the moments the three of us have had together . . . Thank you.

  9. Jo says:

    I have always known that there has to be a grey area with regards to sexuality. Why ever not? We know that, in nature, at the lowest level, there are creatures of the female sex and the male sex and others with both sexes or ‘intersexed’. We know that there are creatures which reproduce by and in themselves. Therefore, every possibility exists. Yet we cannot accept this fact among us. Perhaps this would have been forgivable in our past but it is 2011. Finally, if we were molded from ‘God’ then God would have to be of all sexes as we were ‘created in his light’.

  10. Colleen Bradley says:

    Richard was an inspiration to me. His love of life was evident, his sense of humour quirky and hilarious, his love of travel and his way of being in the moment. I so enjoyed working with him….it was all to brief. Andrea thank you for acknowledging and honouring Richard in your blog. Keep up the great work.

  11. Thank you for publishing Richard Kall Remembered March of
    Dimes Canada President’s Blog, I actually was seeking for something comparable and was pleased to obtain the information by this posting.

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