CHURCH POINT - Whole new worlds can be discovered when one has the chance to get to know another person better. Just ask David Harris.
For the past two summers, Harris, a summer resident of Cedar Lake, attended a French immersion program at Université Sainte-Anne. He purposely sat beside the cafeteria windows during mealtime to watch “in awe” as Clyde Deveau, who he refers to as a “severely crippled man,” drove his motorized wheelchair to a corner of the parking lot, left the chair and struggled to accomplish a daily walk with his cane around the building for exercise.
Harris badly wanted to assist the man but held back because he didn’t want to intrude or embarrass him.
Last fall, while helping with a function at Camp Peniel, Harris had the good fortune to be asked to assist Deveau, who was also visiting the facility.
“Once I discovered who he was and told him how much I admired him, I got to spend a most memorable afternoon with a man who I admire and respect as much as anyone I have ever had the privilege of meeting,” said Harris.
He learned that half of Deveau’s body is paralyzed from when he was five and hit by a car while riding his bicycle. The incident also left him with a speech impediment.
Angela Barkhouse, Deveau’s sister, says he was in a coma for 36 days.
“He was pronounced dead twice,” she said.
Harris refers to Deveau as a true super hero and a promoter of optimism for those who get caught up in self-pity or the “why me” syndrome.
Deveau works Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the Meteghan SIP, where his co-workers think highly of him and he “knows everyone who comes through the door.”
The first thing you notice about Deveau is the light in his eyes and his beautiful smile that connects with your soul.
“Everyone seems to know Clyde and is happy to see him when they come in,” said assistant manager Liette LeBlanc.
“He’s a jokester and he fits right in. He’s always willing to try new stuff and learn more. He helps with the dishes too,” she added.
“I love doing dishes,” Deveau said with a smile.
He also loves drawing and bowling.
When he was 11 he moved to Toronto with his aunt and spent six months in rehab.
“They helped me a lot,” he said.
At the age of 29 he returned to Clare.
Deveau lives at la Maison Jérôme and also works at Atelier de Clare - a social enterprise and adult service centre providing day programs to adults with special needs.
Clients build birdhouses and are commissioned to paint or apply photos in memory of loved ones, make barbecue scrapers, kindling, bath bombs and more.
Upon entering the facility, one can’t help but notice the plaque sitting on the desk: “Atelier de Clare CEO Clyde Deveau.”
Executive director Carolyn Sloan says Deveau has always had a desk in the entry to greet people and that he was one of the first that wanted to become involved in the new retail sector of the facility.
“When we got this new desk put in, he said, ‘I’m moving up in the world.’ He was really excited to take on that role.”
She says his sense of humour is well known.
“He takes pride in who he is. He’s a gentleman. He has never lost his dignity and is a very dignified person. He’s incredibly intelligent in terms of his understanding of people and situations. He’s always intuitive.”
Deveau has sat on several committees and working groups that have made proposals to the board or put together projects. He also helped put together a self-advocacy and leadership program. He and his colleagues succeeded in changing the part-time status of their job coach to full-time by writing a letter to the Department of Community Services.
“They were inspired by the self-advocacy course,” said Sloan.
“Clyde has always known that he’s had a voice, a mind of his own. He has good ideas and a lot to contribute. Given the opportunity, he’s the first to step forward. He’s a natural leader.”
Bookkeeper Lucille Robicheau says Deveau always has a smile and is happy to see people.
“Clyde is a people person. He’s definitely an extrovert. He thrives on having people to chat with.”
Deveau turns 50 July 4. Those who know and love him will undoubtedly make the day a very special one for him.