Retired optometrist hopes donation will help mental health initiatives

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on February 6, 2014
Dr. Jim Patriquin, who recently retired from his optometry practice, relaxes in his Steady Brook home.
Star photo by Gary Kean

Dr. Jim Patriquin and his wife Sandra love to travel.

They have visited an estimated 50 countries around the world and have been to practically every nook and cranny of the island of Newfoundland and parts of Labrador.

When the optometrist required a liver transplant a couple of years ago, it made travelling much more difficult. In fact, it made life a lot harder too and Patriquin has now retired from his eye care career that spanned more than four decades.

For the past several years, ever since he heard a presentation at a Rotary Club of Corner Brook meeting, Patriquin has made a donation of around $500 to the Community Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) in Corner Brook.

“It sort of stuck with me that this is an organization that helps the community and involves the community and brings together a lot of different groups,” he said during an interview at his home on the banks of Humber River in Steady Brook.

This year, Patriquin surprised the mental health organization by upping his regular donation to more than $10,000.

“I just happened to have the means,” he said of why he decided to give such a large sum this year. “We haven’t been on a vacation or anything like that for a while, so I just thought I would give more.

“It felt good doing that. I know they will use it well.”

Patriquin didn’t insist on how the CMHI should spend the money he has given them, even though he has discussed the organization’s various programs with its staff when he made the donation.

“They are the experts and they know where their biggest needs are,” he said. “So, I’ll rely on them for their expertise in determining where this money will go.”

Patriquin, a native of Nova Scotia who moved to western Newfoundland to practice in 1973, donates to many charities on the local, provincial, national and international level. He said he will continue to be charitable, depending on his ability to do so.

The reason why he chose CMHI for this significant donation was that he feels mental health is an important issue that affects society more than any other health condition. He said mental health is a “hidden entity” that is not always as obvious as the effects of physical diseases like cancer and diabetes.

“I just thought it would be nice to bring them more to the forefront a little bit and to encourage others to recognize the mental health problems in the community a little more,” said Patriquin. “Life’s been good to me, so I try to put some back.”

His long convalescence from the liver transplant is not the first time Patriquin has experienced a slow recovery from a medical issue. He experienced a lengthy sickness and recovery after a bone marrow transplant in 1978.

Patriquin, 64, says he is the oldest survivor of a bone marrow transplant, in which the donor wasn’t an identical twin, in all of Canada.

But Patriquin has still led what he calls “an eventful life,” kept busy through his work, his volunteer time within the field of optometry and with service clubs like Rotary International and the Lions Club. And, of course, there have been all those opportunities to travel — even just for a trout fishing expedition somewhere in Newfoundland they had never been before — that he and his wife have taken advantage of.

These days, as he works on regaining his strength and mobility, Patriquin has set about doing some personal projects. One is to digitally catalogue the thousands of photos he has taken during his life and travels.

The other is to write a book about his life’s memories.

“It’s slow but sure,” he said of the book’s progress. “I’m not a very fast writer. It’s slow, but I’ll get there.”