It was an ordinary Monday, October 3, 2016 when I met an extraordinary individual named Gordon Andrew Hefford. Gordon’s thoughtful demeanor and calm disposition was noticeable immediately. He was born August 15, 1965, the youngest of five children being the only boy he was surrounded by love and brought joy to all he encountered. It is the love from his family that has sustained him through some challenging times in his life. Gordon was diagnosed in his early life as being a person with Down Syndrome. Very little was known in the 1960’s about Down Syndrome so institutionalization was the standard procedure. His parents resisted and took their precious baby boy home.
Growing up with his family’s love and support he developed, grew and matured into being a loving son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, tenacious student, accomplished athlete to the caliber of Special Olympian and community supporter. Gordon has four sisters, four brothers-in-law, ten nieces and nephews and ten great nieces and nephews. One of his proudest moments was being chosen to be the best man at his oldest nephew’s wedding.
He was involved in Sunday school and Clubs at Queen Street United Church where his parents married in 1951 and Parkdale Baptist Church which was just a half block from the family home. He attended Kindergarten at Parkdale Public School then finished the remainder of his elementary school education at Beverly Street School. He then went to Lucy McCormick for high school and Adult Day Classes at Castle Frank High School.
Gordon’s athleticism became evident at about ten years of age when he began swimming lessons and glided through the water like a fish in the sea. His mother took him swimming at Beverly Street School for 1 night per week. It is while taking him to swim that he then finally learned to swim. He is quite the inspiration, especially as he was in his 50’s at the time. As he grew in strength and technique he joined a swim team which he was still a part of until December 2015. Through this team he got involved in Special Olympics for many years. This multi-talented athlete also played floor hockey in the Special Olympics on Team Canada in Louisiana in 1983 and the team won Silver. Later in life, despite having problems with his feet, Gordon learned to skate and played hockey on Saturdays at Grandravine Arena with the Tornadoes. He enjoyed playing Softball and played with The Etobicoke Eagles for quite a few years.
This talented, humble individual has met many famous and interesting people through his years and been involved with the Special Olympics, Down Syndrome Network (DSN), Faith and Light, Smudges (Saturday morning dance group) and Famous People Players. He has traveled extensively including Canada (Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Calgary, Vancouver), United States (Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, Missouri) and Europe (Italy, France and England).
Gordon’s work life shows his diverse skill set and adaptability to different environments. He worked in a restaurant for work experience while in school and often speaks about it. He worked with LanRay Dry Cleaners for about ten Years and The York Private School for about another ten years, he has also worked in a daycare and factory setting. I asked him where he would like to work if he had the opportunity to pick a job and he said he would like to get a job in a daycare.
Gordon’s parents were his number one fans, they never missed a game or event he was involved in. His mother Flora had dementia and lived in a nursing home for fourteen months before she passed away in January, 2008. His father Selby had a stroke in October, 2008 and lived at home until his care needs became more complex and he moved to the Sunnybrook’s George Hess Veterans Residence where he currently resides.
In 2014 Gordon was diagnosed with early stage dementia. He left his job in December, 2014 and started attending classes at West Toronto Junction and West Toronto Keys. He loved the people and the programs but as the dementia progressed he had to give up these activities. At this time his dementia is stable and there has been no further decline. He is a client of the CCAC’s home supplement helping the family.
In summer 2016 Gordon started living between the family’s home in Toronto with his sister Carol and brother-in-law John and another sister Margo and her husband Terry in Ajax. He goes to Ajax on Tuesday and returns to Toronto on Thursday.
Gordon Hefford is a calm individual who likes to listen to soothing music and do colouring to relax. He listens attentively when spoken to and takes a moment to think before giving an answer, a humble man who has lived a life most can only imagine.
Love, joy and possibilities are cornerstones on which Gordon has built his life and legacy.
Gordon is currently a client of the WTSS Adult Day Service.
Written by Aretha Crawford. Aretha is currently studying at George Brown College in the Activation Coordinator/Gerontology program and is a student in the WTSS ADS program.
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