Stephen Michael Hamilton
It is with broken hearts that the family of Stephen Michael Hamilton sadly announce his passing on September 7, 2018 at the age of 57. Stephen was a fighter right from the start, meeting and overcoming challenges all his life.
Diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, he had total vision loss by the age of 10. After a gut wrenching decision, our parents decided that the Halifax School for the Blind was Stephen’s best chance for a successful future, so he spent the next 8 years going back and forth between Fredericton and Halifax, two cities he loved. We know those years were tough on our parents, but because of their love, Stephen grew to be a very independent and confident young man.
Upon his graduation from school, he returned to Fredericton and could be seen walking around town with his trusty white cane. He loved to be out and about, talking with the people he met, making wise cracks, and generally meeting each day with good humour and a smile. One of his favourite spots was "Wacky Wheatley’s", as music was his pas-sion. It was there he developed a lifelong friendship with Pat Morrison who always maintained contact with Stephen, even after he left Fredericton. Stephen loved his CB radio, visiting his Woodstock relatives, Haggerty’s Cove, playing cards, listening to mu-sic, going to concerts, driving in fast cars or on tractors, shifting gears, teasing his sisters and, on a boring day, hopping on a bicycle (didn’t matter he couldn’t see) and riding un-til he drove into something.
From Fredericton, he decided to move on to the city of Toronto where the main office of the CNIB was located. He wanted to live by himself and get a job, "like any other sight-ed person my age would do", he said. As a family we were terrified, but not Stephen, so in Sept of 1985 he moved to Toronto. He underwent mobility training, learning to find his way around Toronto better than most sighted people. He took the bus, subways, trains, planes and any other form of transportation required to get to where he wanted to go. He lived by himself, cooked, cleaned and folded laundry better than anyone we knew. He was trained as an audio technician, working at that until the digital era arrived and took away the job he loved. Undeterred, he had many other odd jobs. He worked in a canteen, packaged Chia Pets (after which he hated Chia Pets) packaged matches, and acted as an Extra on movie sets. We remember Stephen telling us about working with actor Leslie Neilson, where his job was to point him in the direction that the other guy ran. Later on, he volunteered for the CNIB where he carried out many volunteer activities, including speaking engagements on the experience of being blind and using guide dogs.
Stephen also applied for, and was accepted into, the Guide Dog Training Program in Oakville, Ontario - and thus entered Nugget, the first of several "furry family members". Nugget was a high-spirited and loveable dog, totally devoted to Stephen. He was also very mischievous, stealing toast from a lady’s plate in a restaurant, skipping stairs on a stairway and sneaking under the seat on a plane to get treats from the people behind him. Nugget "served" Stephen for 13 beautiful years, followed by Corey, Teddy and Laker.
Stephen’s life also came with many challenges as anyone with a disability knows, and his inability to maintain employment brought him great frustration. It is sad that our society still struggles with inclusion for the disabled. Stephen and his guide dogs were refused service in restaurants on many occasions, but that didn’t stop him. A quick call to police, arrival on scene, conversations were had, and Stephen would get his service. Cabbies drove away from him when they noticed his guide dogs. Stephen would solicit assis-tance from witnesses nearby resulting in charges and convictions of the guilty parties. He was bullied and harassed, had money stolen from him, was pushed and knocked over, but never deterred. He always stayed positive, and felt that there was nothing that a big glass of beer, music and good company couldn’t fix.
Eventually Stephen decided to return to Fredericton, but within mere days of planning his return, the Love of his Life unexpectedly appeared. That first date with Lisa went off without a hitch - that is, until she guided Stephen right into a telephone pole. That was it, Stephen was hooked! They were married in Oshawa, Ontario in August of 2001 and have been inseparable ever since. Stephen took on his role as husband with dedication and enthusiasm. He adored Lisa and was very protective of her, as she was of him. They went everywhere together, did everything together, and established a network of loyal and supportive friends together, all of whom have stood by them through their chal-lenges, the last one being Stephen’s cancer diagnosis in 2016. He faced that battle with determination and resolve, and with little complaint - that is, until close to the end. Ste-phen was not used to obstacles that he couldn’t overcome and he was not happy when there were no options left. He felt there was still much to do, many places to see and so much more love to give Lisa, his family and friends.
Stephen leaves a legacy of inspiration among those whose lives he touched along the way. He did not "see" the world as we do – he "saw" with his heart. He could see through a person’s veneer and detect kindness, honesty, compassion, or a lack thereof. If someone were being dishonest, unkind or disrespectful, he would call the person on that. For Stephen, a kind voice mattered more than a person’s looks or status. A place to meet was more important than its size or decor. A beautiful sound was more important than who made it or where it came from. The ability to touch and feel things gave him a joy that we will never know.
And now, Stephen is in a place where he won’t need his sunglasses or his white cane, and where his kind heart and his ability to love unconditionally will be all that matters.
Stephen, you will always be our hero.
Born on September 2, 1961, he was the special chosen son of the late Edward George Hamilton and Irma Verla Hamilton (Collings) of Fredericton. He is survived by his de-voted wife of 17 years, Lisa Hamilton (St. Louis) of Oshawa, Ontario; sisters Cynthia Hamilton Urquhart (Stephen) of Calgary, AB and Bonnie Hamilton Bogart (James) of Gagetown, NB; nephews and nieces Kevin McFarlane (Gisele), Mark McFarlane (Rachel Lewis), Heather Pike (Dale), Benjamin McFarlane (Terri Lavoie); Frank Jones (Erin), Stephen Jones, Adam Urquhart, Chad Urquhart, Lauren Urquhart; and many great-nieces and great-nephews. He also leaves to mourn Lisa’s parents, Linda and Donald St. Louis of Pickering, ON; Lisa’s brother Richard (Vickie) St. Louis of St. Louis, Missouri; Donna Hamilton (Robert) and so many other Woodstock, N.B. relatives; Pauline Thompson of Ottawa, ON; and Philip McFarlane of Rothesay, N.B. Special mention is required for Mike Webb and Rene Blanchard who continued to contact and support Stephen with their friendship from his earlier years in Fredericton. His special Oshawa friends: Pauline and Les Spencer and Teresa Commodaro who provided such kindness to Stephen and Lisa throughout this journey; the wonderful neighbours in Stephen’s apartment complex and those in the surrounding areas that have provided their friendships over the years.
Our family would like to thank the nurses and doctors at the Palliative Care Unit of the Lakeridge Health Centre in Oshawa, Dr. Danny Enepekides and Elsa Benjamin of the Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto and Dr. Navdeep Nijhawan of the Oshawa Medical Clinic.
A Celebration of Life will take place on Saturday, August 3rd, 2019 from 2:00 - 4:00 at the St. Thomas University Conference Centre.
For those who wish, donations in Steve’s memory may be made to the Palliative Care Unit of the Lakeridge Health Centre, Oshawa through their website at lakeridgehealth-foundation.com , or the Wheels of Hope, the transportation service provided by the Canadian Cancer Society through their website at www.cancer.ca.