How life’s circles brought Bob Morin’s inspiration to Barrie

In 1984 Bob Morin was in grade 11at Temiskaming High School in New Liskeard, ON. Bob was a miracle in 1984, a profoundly deaf teenager who attended an ‘ordinary’ high school, lived among hearing kids and teachers. Because he’d been nurtured in a family determined to keep him out of a ‘facility,’ Bob had been coaxed, applauded, and challenged into trying to live an ‘ordinary’ life in a small Ontario community.

But Bob Morin’s second name is ‘Determination’. One of the things Bob did was apply to be a student advisor for a national teen magazine, published then out of Toronto (or so he thought). Another thing that happened in Grade 11 is he was run for Students Council.

Of course, 1984 isn’t the start of Bob’s circle. It started at birth in a North Bay Hospital. Baby Bob was born deaf, the result of German Measles in his mother’s seventh month of pregnancy. Doctors at the time told Bob’s parents that he would not speak, he would not lead a normal life in any way. To be profoundly deaf is different than being born hard of hearing, and prospects for this baby were bleak. But the world hadn’t reckoned on the determination of Bob’s mom and Bob.

Bobby was three years old, sitting in the back seat of the family car one winter morning. He saw his parents talking in the front seat as the car warmed up. He SAW their voices. Their warm breath on cold air created mist from their mouths. It was Bob’s first notice of sound.

He made his first sound as he tried to copy sending warm breath out into cold air. His mother eagerly put his hand to her throat so he could feel the vibrations of her voice box as she spoke. Then she put Bob’s hand on his own throat so he could make sounds of his own. From such beginnings came hours and hours and hours of teaching. When Bob mastered a sound his mother made him repeat it endlessly. He hated that alot when he was five, six, seven, eight. He’s grateful today.

Imagine, if you will, Bob’s welcome in early school… the kid with the voice box on his chest… wires running up to his ears… the kid who talked funny. He had very few friends who were boys because he was the brunt of many jokes. He found girls much more compassionate.

Bob Morin’s story is one of attempt, failure, attempt, success. He told it Wednesday morning at the South Employment Resource Centre. When his parents presented him with his first behind-the-ear hearing aids as a grade eight grad gift, gone was the box strapped to his chest. And Bob Morin took off –literally!. Sports became possible! While attempting baseball, he found he could outrun the ball and a wise coach signed him up for track and field. Bob’s ability to focus took him to the top with firsts, then regional golds, then relay wins, and then track camp during a summer when he stretched from a pudgy 5’6” to 6’1”. This success in sports took Bob into the political arena and his ability to lipread and his attempts at pronunciation, each sound lovingly extracted by his mother, put him on the campaign circuit and into his school’s political process. First a member. Then treasurer. Then president. All with his lifelong motto tucked under his arm… determination.

“I’ve always had to work three times as hard to get to where I am,” he remembered on Wednesday morning.

And when he was in Grade 11, an editor at a teen magazine spoke with Bob through the hearing assisted operator services and interviewed him, about being deaf and living in a hearing world, about his excellence at track, about his performance as an advisor to her magazine, about his ambition to work helping people.

“That article changed my life,” says Bob. He was invited by the Canadian Deaf Sports Association to participate in a world championship for the deaf in Los Angeles. His enthusiastic home town raised so much more than the $3500 for him to go, that he was able to help fund a Toronto athlete, too.

“I wanted to go because I’d never been with deaf people before. I was so nervous about meeting deaf students. I didn’t do sign language, you see.” Bob took his same ‘determination’ to Los Angeles and came home with a gold medal in the 400 metre event, returning triumphant to New Liskeard, celebrated with a parade celebration. The boy who would never speak, never communicate, never live a normal life, came home a hero, AND able to communicate in the world of the deaf.

Bob’s need for independence meant leaving home. He chose Barrie and Georgian College because of Kempenfelt Bay and its similarity to New Liskeard AND because the staff at Georgian was absolutely incredible. Bob took Business Fashion Merchandising and applauds his teachers, students, and the Co-op program which resulted in a 10-year career with Marks Work Wearhouse followed by a four-year career with Winners.

After exploring career enhancements, workshops and self employment potential, Bob Morin and his friend are taking their combined business of Potentials and Posh (representing models) to a higher level. Bob wants to blend his retail background and help people with career changes, identifying potential and helping with recruiting. “We’re hoping this fall to merge our two agencies and open up a life centre and combine our businesses, including courses like True Colors to help people integrate their lives.”

Bob summed up his life Wednesday morning before a small group of us who were celebrating diversity, advertising, accessibility and challenge. He credits his mom with her insistence that he live an integrated life. “Deaf people can go in to the hearing world and adapt.”

How could anyone not adapt with a bright light like Bob Morin in the room? For me, the circle was complete. I, the interviewing editor, now in 2003 was meeting for the first time young Bobby Morin, the runner from 1984. He’s been in Barrie since 1988. I’ve been in Barrie since 1971. And neither of us knew.

Until now.

Thank you, Bob. And thank your Mom for believing.