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He was a warm hearted individual who lived in the Mount Hope Center for long-term care in London. When he drove down the hospital corridor he smiled at everyone he met. He was the jovial court jester who continually warmed the hearts of staff and patients at St Joseph’s Health Care Center.

Let me introduce you to Donnie Habel a giant of a man-three feet, nine inches tall. He endured over 69 fractures to his body in the last 74 years. He lived on his own since the age of nine. Hospitals, nuns, nurses, doctors have sort of adopted Donnie.

He was street smart but never had the opportunity to attend school. He could not read or write but was very good at math and business. He enjoyed working for the London Free Press as a paper carrier for 62 years selling his newspapers at St Joseph’s Hospital.

If you had been a patient at the hospital, he was a welcome daily visitor delivering the news of the day to your room. You could see him with his handle bar mustache gliding down the hall in his scooter. Lights- a- flashing, country music wafting from his dual speakers. His rear licence plate attests that he was a SWINGER. A ready smile, whistle and a "how are your doing," he greeted everyone he met.

Donnie enjoyed cheering up the patients and customers. No rush; he had the whole morning to deliver his 100 papers, six days a week. Up at 5 a. m. to dress, clean his room, eat some breakfast and off he scooted to pick up his bundles of the London Free Press.

Our initial interview took place in the coffee shop at Mount Hope where many people dropped bye to say hi. One of the nursing staff told me that everyone knew Donnie. She could always count on him in a pinch when needed. He was not only a resident; he was part of a close-knit family.

As a life long member of the London North Lion’s Club he played a key role in fund-raising for various charities.
Donnie and his friend, Cathy, who has Cerebral Palsy, were inseparable. Her mom spoke warmly of him, ‘as a miracle worker who took such good care of her daughter. Festivals in the park, lunch at MacDonald’s, wheelchair floor hockey along with volunteering, made life more enjoyable for her daughter.’

Every Friday night when the London Knights were playing at the Budweiser Center the twosome were picked up by Para Transit at five p. m. and taken to the Covent Gardens Market to enjoy a delicious dinner of Lasagna and Cannelloni. After dinning they made their way over to the hockey rink where they had seasons tickets to cheer for their London Knight’s Hockey team.

It’s not often that we meet the likes of the little big man. With all of life’s travails he was truly a happy man:"no anger, regrets or complaints of what might have been."

When life dealt him a lemon, Donnie simply smiled and made delicious lemonade to entertain his many friends.

Donnie's future plan was to live as long as he wanted and never want as long as he lived. He passed away on Friday July the 12 at 81 years of age doing it his way.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com