Conrad Jean announces retirement
After over 40 years of working in St. Paul and advocating for those with disabilities, Conrad Jean celebrated his retirement last week and is now looking forward to relaxing and spending time with his grandkids.
Jean worked for St. Paul Abilities Network for over 30 years, yet he can still clearly recall when he was first hired back in the early ‘80s. The work became a passion where he incorporated his love of sports and working with people with disabilities.
“I was working at the John Deere dealership in St. Paul and she (Yvonne Joly) posted this job for recreation with people with disabilities,” Jean remembered. “I didn’t know if I would like this kind of work. I thought I would because I loved sports, but in the event it was not what I wanted, I could always go back to work at John Deere.”
Jean never went back, and for the next three decades, he spent his time helping those who are disabled by providing care and recreational activities like St. Paul’s annual Slo-Pitch Tournament, which is now named after him.
This year, the 26th annual Conrad Jean Slo-Pitch Tournament will take place during the last weekend in August. Over the years, the tournament has grown into a national event where teams from out of province, and even the United States, come to compete.
“I always thought that the slo-pitch, what with how the ball is gently tossed, would be fairly easy to teach to people that have a challenge,” he said. “It’s quite well known now.”
Jean’s passion for sports runs deep, evidenced by the fact he proudly lets it be known he has four TVs in his house so he can watch different games at the same time, and the fact he’s been coaching sports since he was young.
“Even in high school, when I was 15 or 16, I was coaching hockey, basketball and softball teams,” he said. “I would coach the elementary level. The whole world around my house revolves around sports.”
His first post at the St. Paul Abilities Network was as the recreation coordinator, but after 15 years, he switched to the outreach program, working one-on-one with people that have a disability.
“I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for people that have disabilities,” he said. “I’ve had a disability all my life. I was only 10 months old when I was stricken with polio. Even just walking on the streets with some uneven sidewalks is a struggle.”
His devotion to his work has not gone unnoticed throughout the community and the province, as Jean has previously been given the Citizen of the Year Award for St. Paul as well as the Norm McLeod Award.
The latter award recognizes an adult whose actions have made communities a more welcoming place for people with developmental disabilities to become community leaders, according to the Government of Alberta website.
“It was quite an honour,” he said about receiving the prestigious award. “I really didn’t think I had a chance because when they announced all of the nominees, I think there was about seven or eight of us.
“I was sitting in my chair and I just about fell off when I heard,” he continued. “It was a shock, but a pleasant shock.”
Yvonne Joly, who originally hired Jean for the St. Paul Abilities Network, said he was the type of employee about whom one would never have to worry.
“From the moment I interviewed him I knew he was what we were looking for,” Joly said. “He worked beyond the call of duty all the time and was an inspiration to all those who are handicapped.” She said she didn’t think it would be possible to replace someone like Jean who could do fully what he did. “It’s sort of an attribute you don’t expect from an employee because it was his passion. He’s a natural.”
Despite all that he has given to the community, Jean said St. Paul has made him who he is today and he is proud to be from here.
“I’m on the homestead,” he said. “My grandparents came here in 1909 from Quebec. I like the fact St. Paul is a friendly community. It has good services for people with disabilities.
“There’s lots of good employers in this town and people are treated with respect and dignity,” he added. “That’s what I like about a small town.”
Jean said that although he’s retired, he is still going to be involved with the abilities network in an advisory role and as a board member.
He would like to thank all of his co-workers and people he has met over the years, especially Yvonne Joly and the Desjardins family.
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.