Community Living Ontario was saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Tim Coughlin on Sunday.
A former President and lifetime member of Community Living Essex County with a strong connection to Community Living Ontario, Tim was known for his leadership and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.
As a former educator and principal with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, he believed strongly in including children and youth with significant disabilities into regular classes in his schools.
“He gained a bit of a reputation for really challenging some of the Board policies at the time and some of the practices that were going on, and he really became a strong advocate for families and people with disabilities,” says Nancy Wallace-Gero, Executive Director of Community Living Essex County.
When Wallace-Gero would visit Tim, “There would be children with significant challenges being assisted by other children in the school and we’re talking in the 80s, long before many [schools] were doing that. He was a man ahead of his time in so many ways.”
It was his leadership, progressive nature and his commitment to people that made Community Living Essex County take notice. Tim joined the Board in 1986, the same year that Wallace-Gero was hired. She credits him with helping to rebuild the organization and with strengthening its capacity.
“He was an amazing leader to be able to pull the Board together, develop a really strong foundation for the role of the Board and, really, made my coming into an organization that had a lot of challenges much easier.”
As Coughlin became accustomed with the Board at Community Living Essex County, he got involved with a number of initiatives in the Developmental Services Sector, participating in many working groups struck by the Ministry.
“He provided terrific leadership in a lot of those types of forums in those days, where we were really working hard to build the capacity of our community to be able to provide the kind of services that we would eventually offer as the institutions were phased down and closed.”
Tim later became involved with Community Living Ontario as a Director in 1991 and then as Vice President from 1992 to 1994.
He helped organize a rally at Queen’s Park to protest government cuts to services in November 1992. 4,000 members from local associations attended the rally.
“I can remember him standing up on the hill at Queen’s Park with a microphone in his hand and talking to the crowds up there,” says Wallace-Gero, fondly.
It was also during Tim’s time on the Board that Community Living Ontario was asked to participate in a working group struck by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, looking at alternatives to sheltered workshops.
Although Coughlin gradually stepped away from the Board of Directors at Community Living Essex County in the later 1990s, he stayed connected with the organization through his participation on various committees.
In 2011, he chaired the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee and Wallace-Gero says he did that “on behalf of the Past Presidents, and it was really nice to have him involved in that.”
During her 29 years with Community Living Essex County, she has had the pleasure of working with 15 Presidents. While each has brought their own passion and made their mark, Wallace-Gero says “Tim holds a really special place, partly because of the issues and challenges that the organization was facing back in 1986. If it wasn’t for Tim taking on that role of being as involved as he was with the organization at that time, I don’t know whether we’d be where we are today.”
“Community Living Essex County is a better place because of Tim Coughlin.”
Tim is survived by his wife, Marie, their kids Monique, Colette and Tim and their seven grandchildren.
– Ron Laroche