When Dale De Meyer, a resident of Actionmarguerite St. Boniface, goes out for a stroll, he gets noticed. He wears a ring on almost every finger and a key holder on his belt, but what draws the most attention are his flags. He’s already mounted a dozen or so flags of different nationalities on his wheelchair and plans to add even more!
“About two years ago, I started mounting flags on my chair,” says De Meyer. “They represent the home countries of residence staff. I did public speaking at school, so I’m not shy about having conversations. I can talk about anything, and I ask staff where they’re from. Right now, I’m waiting for a flag from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a way to pay tribute and say thank you to these people who care for us every day.”
Born at Misericordia Hospital, De Meyer grew up in Headingley, Manitoba with his parents and younger brother. “My brother and I were very close in age and did everything together. Now he lives outside Winnipeg, and I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like to. But my parents visit me regularly, as do my three sons.”
Both brothers were excellent students at school. “We graduated from high school with A’s. I went on to college to study auto mechanics. I graduated with more than 30 credits, though I only needed 21! Then I went back to take university courses. I worked at a high school while I was studying.”
After graduation, De Meyer landed a job with Detroit Diesel, in Winnipeg. “It’s a company that makes engines for tractors, trucks, and buses. I was a heavy equipment mechanic. I restored engines, and in 15 years, I never had one returned to me!”
He then went to work for Peterbilt Manitoba Ltd., a truck dealership. “One time, a mechanic was sent to repair a Greyhound bus. He thought the solution was to put gas in the tank. I knew that wouldn’t work, so I told him how to fix the problem, and the bus was able to continue on its way. Mechanics was my passion.”
De Meyer is not only an engine enthusiast, but also a motorcycle aficionado. “I used to have a Harley Davidson. I bought it when I was about 20 years old. It had been a childhood dream of mine. I was able to get a lot of driving in. I attended summer motorcycle rallies in South Dakota. Those events are huge. Last year, they had almost a million bikes!”
Multiple sclerosis soon forced the young man into a long-term care facility. “I first lived at the St. Norbert Foundation for seven months,” he says. “That’s where I developed an interest in Indigenous culture. I like going to smudges and I learned how to drum. I really have this sense of having Indigenous ancestry.”
In fact, one of his rings is an authentic Indigenous piece. “One of my friends would have nightmares when she wore the ring. She told me there was a sordid tale associated with the piece of jewellery. I had the ring cleansed, to rid it of negative energy, and I’ve worn it ever since.”
“I also wear two biker rings, and one in the shape of a truck. And I have my high school ring. There’s a hockey player on the side, because I was part of the team. Actually, during my first year with the team, we won a championship.”
De Meyer has been a resident of Actionmarguerite St. Boniface’s young adult unit for the past 10 years and has developed a special connection with a nurse on his floor. “Her name was familiar to me,” he says. In talking with her, I discovered that her family name is associated with a park in the community where I grew up. We have a very special relationship.”
The resident has also developed friendships with many of the staff. “I often leave the facility to get coffee for the staff on my floor. It’s something they really appreciate. I can carry up to ten coffees on my chair! I really like this residence. It’s one of the best facilities in the city,” he says.