A Life's Story

November 24, 2018

Family man 'got the best out of people'

Tireless volunteer had huge effect on Manitoba sports community

By: Ryan Thorpe

Wayne Deschouwer was a tireless community volunteer, a pillar of Manitoba’s sports community and a self-described happiest man around.

Throughout the nearly five decades he was involved in Manitoba sports — as a coach, manager, player and fan — he touched countless lives and made a tangible effect on his community.

Wayne Deschouwer with grandson, Kosten.</p>

Wayne Deschouwer with grandson, Kosten.

“For him, it wasn’t about winning at all costs. It was about teamwork. He really fostered the kids that he coached. He was very much admired by everybody that knew him,” said his sister, Colleen Deschouwer Smitke.

Deschouwer died on Oct. 1. He was 63.

He was born on Oct. 17, 1954, in Holland, Man., and grew up in Mariapolis. He was the eldest child of Lou and Wilma Deschouwer, and he had one sister and one brother.

In high school, Wayne met the love of his life: Clemence. The two married in 1978 and raised a family in Gladstone, where they lived for 17 years and had three children, Marc, Lisa and Eric.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Wayne Deschouwer</p><p>- for Ryan Thorpe Passage feature / Winnipeg Free Press</p>

SUPPLIED

Wayne Deschouwer

- for Ryan Thorpe Passage feature / Winnipeg Free Press

In 2009, for a family project, Deschouwer wrote a short autobiography in which he touched on his marriage to Clemence.

“I married my high school sweetheart,” he wrote. “We went out for five years before we tied the knot. She was well worth the wait.”

During his time in Gladstone, Deschouwer got involved with youth baseball, fastball and hockey. He also helped establish senior hockey and fastball teams in the community, was president of the arena and served as a volunteer paramedic.

His tireless community volunteering would continue throughout his life. He held countless positions with various athletics organizations around the province. For his efforts, Deschouwer racked up a considerable stack of awards and honours, all of which he accepted humbly. The honours have continued following his death. Recently, Softball Manitoba decided to rename its umpire of the year award the Wayne Deschouwer Award.

“I think he had a way with people. He was always very kind to people, very courteous and respectful. It didn’t matter what walk of life they came from, if they were with Wayne, they would feel heard and respected,” Colleen said.

“He always made people feel good about themselves. That’s how he got the best out of people.”

SUPPLIED</p><p>Wayne Deschouwer</p><p>- with his wife, Clemence.</p><p>- for Ryan Thorpe Passage feature / Winnipeg Free Press</p>

SUPPLIED

Wayne Deschouwer

- with his wife, Clemence.

- for Ryan Thorpe Passage feature / Winnipeg Free Press

The only thing more important to Deschouwer than giving back to his community through sports was his family. They were a tight-knit bunch, regularly keeping in touch over the phone and spending every holiday together.

When his first grandchild was born, he slowed down a bit on his volunteer work, so he could spend time with them.

“That changed him. He slowed down a bit after that. His grandkids were certainly the light of his life,” Colleen said.

He could spin a good yarn — maybe with a bit of embellishment here and there — that made people laugh. His family said any conversation around the table where Deschouwer was involved was bound to be lively and punctuated with laughter.

At the age of 63, Deschouwer had some heart issues. He had successful open heart surgery and was recovering in hospital, with plenty of regular visitors.

But a few weeks before his birthday, things took a turn for the worse. He died unexpectedly. The family still isn’t sure what happened.

“He had a long road to recovery, but we thought he beat this. We thought he had this thing licked. We all thought he was getting better, dying was the last thing we all thought after he’d gone through the surgery,” Colleen said.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Wayne Deschouwer</p><p>- as a young child with his father</p><p>- for Ryan Thorpe Passage feature / Winnipeg Free Press</p>

SUPPLIED

Wayne Deschouwer

- as a young child with his father

- for Ryan Thorpe Passage feature / Winnipeg Free Press

Shortly after he died, Premier Brian Pallister stood up in the Manitoba legislature to say a few words to honour his passing. The two had been friends and adversaries through sports.

“I rise to say farewell to a good friend, teammate, adversary on the sports field, coach and family man,” Pallister said.

“He’s an accomplished man, Madam Speaker. We’re going to all miss his very dearly. He always gave more than he took. Goodbye, old friend.”

The turnout at Deschouwer’s funeral was not only a testament to how well-liked and respected he was, but also to his tireless volunteer work and the effect he had on the lives of countless individuals through sports.

When his family gathered to lay Deschouwer to rest, hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects and bid farewell with them.

“I just think he gave so much to the community. After the funeral, I saw all the people who were there. There were so many groups, family, friends, softball people, hockey people. He touched so many lives,” Colleen said.

"So you wonder, ‘Why did Wayne have more than 800 people at his service?’ And it’s because he reached so many people in his life."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

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