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Hockey Sticks & Friendship!!!!!!!!!

by Deanna Finch-Smith,

I met Walter in 2002 when we ran into each other at the local gas station. I jokingly asked him why he got all the hockey sticks from the local arenas as my husband had been searching for sticks to build an Adirondack chair for a charity event. After several minutes of bantering back and forth joking he told me to follow him home. This was the beginning of our friendship that I will treasure forever. I followed him home, had lunch with Phyllis and Walter and he supplied me with bobbleheads, autographed pictures, calendars and pens to use for our charity efforts. Upon leaving he promised to start sharing hockey sticks with Steve to build furniture for charity. Well, he certainly followed through on this promise! At least weekly Walter would show up with truck or sometimes the Jag filled with broken sticks he had collected. As a result Steve built hockey stick chairs, a bar, bar fridges, hockey equipment chest, tables, picture frames and even a personally crafted telephone stand for Phyllis. All creations either went to charity events or personal gifts. We were thrilled to have attended 2 of Wayne's golf tournaments in Collingwood where the hockey stick bar and equipment chest raised $35,000.00 for charity! Not only was Walter generous with this sticks he also made time to accompany me on many speaking engagements for various charities and fundraising events all over Ontario. The charity items were provided to cities as far as Ottawa, North Bay, Clinton, London, Exeter and the Goderich ringette team. We always had an adventure no matter where we were heading, his constant criticizing of my driving abilities, serenading me and his endless jokes kept each trip exciting. We would stop in for surprise home visits to my friends homes so they could meet World's famous hockey dad and of course get a photo opportunity and personalized autograph! I quickly learned that if I had to stop anywhere on route to be prepared for lengthy stops as he would always end up signing autographs or sharing a story with strangers, who would walk away with huge smiles! As my passion is supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and Walter's sister Ellen was the apple of his eye we had a common vision to continue to promote awareness and inclusion for these individuals. So when my husband had a stroke 7 years ago he could no longer build the furniture however Walter continued to visit to encourage Steve to be positive with his recovery and he also continued to bring sticks weekly. A few weeks ago I became aware of a man from London who was seeking sticks for his son who had a developmental disability to build hockey stick flags for charity ! Well, I didn't think twice as we still had hundreds of sticks stored in our backyard and they all went to this amazing cause. I told them that everyone one of these sticks came via Walter and that he would be smiling down on us that day as the sticks are continuing to do the great work they were intended to! Walter would often stop by for campfires, BBQs, birthday parties and even gave up time to attend one of my son's backyard hockey tourneys to drop the puck for some very excited young players, sharing hot chocolate while he shared his latest adventures! With Walter's passing my son was upset... I reassured him how lucky he was to have had a 3rd grandpa in having Walter in our lives, not all kids can say they have the memories of growing up with Walter so involved in their lives and to cherish all these memories. Walter was truly one of the gentlest, kindest humans I have ever had the pleasure of being a friend to. RIP my friend.

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