CLARE, N.S. – The community of Clare lost a prominent citizen and passionate spokesperson for people with disabilities, with the sudden passing on Saturday morning of the founder of Transport de Clare and human rights award recipient, Claredon Robicheau.
Founded by Robicheau in 1996, Transport de Clare was the province’s first non-profit, community-based transportation service, and it now serves all of Digby County. The brainchild of Robicheau, the transport organization provides safe and affordable door-to-door service to seniors, persons with disabilities and economically disadvantaged persons.
After his retirement from the company he founded, Robicheau went on to work with the Bill 57 Community Alliance, a group that helped draft the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act, and was recently honoured with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Award. He had also served as chair of the Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities.
Cathy Theriault, manager of Le Transport de Clare Society said Robicheau’s passing was very difficult news for the organization and its directors to hear. She added they would be issuing a larger statement soon, but initially on behalf of the board of directors wanted to say, "On January 6th, we lost not only our founder but a great man, friend, leader, advocate for all, mentor and so much more to so many people. The multiple legacies he left will live on and continue to benefit many. Rest in peace. Gone but not forgotten.”
Linda Vickery, Coordinator of the HOPE Centre in Yarmouth said, when she was hired for her new position, Robicheau quickly became her mentor.
“As a mentor, as a person, you couldn’t ask for anybody better to work with,” Vickery said. “Claredon went above and beyond the call of duty. He would go way out of his way to help you. He always took the time to answer a call or explain something. This is a such huge loss for all of us.”
Vickery said part of Robicheau’s huge legacy is the network of 17 “dollar” or dial-a-ride transportation service organizations that now exist across the province under the Rural Transportation Association umbrella.
Clare Warden Ronnie LeBlanc said he was also shocked to learn of Robicheau’s sudden death.
“He did so much for so many,” LeBlanc said from his home on Sunday. “His death is a huge loss, not only to the people of Clare but also to people across the province. My thoughts are with his family.”
Naming Robicheau as a close friend and confidante, MLA Gordon Wilson wrote a moving piece about their shared history and posted it to his Facebook timeline, describing how the two met at the Municipality of Digby, and how Robicheau later became part of Wilson’s election campaign team.
Wilson went on to say that Robicheau never did anything halfway, describing his vision for Transport de Clare, the transportation system that serves the region, and more recently his broader focus on advocating for people with disabilities across the province.
“These are only two examples of Claredon’s many efforts to help others and his family should be assured that through his efforts, he will continue to have an impact on the lives of his fellow Nova Scotians for years to come,” Wilson stated in his piece, before describing how he often asked for Robicheau’s advice, and that they’d just talked about meeting for lunch soon the day before his death.
“It is difficult to imagine that those lunches will no longer be possible,” Wilson said in his statement.
Wilson added on Monday that he called Premier Stephen McNeil Saturday morning to share the news of Robicheau’s death.
“I said to him, ‘This is a huge loss for Clare’ and the Premier replied, ‘This is a huge loss for our province.’”
Other tributes on Robicheau’s Facebook page continue to pour in from longtime friends and community members: “Claredon was a wonderful man and he will be missed dearly by all ... our deepest sympathy to you and the family” and "Claredon Robicheau - a courageous man who leaves a monumental legacy. Can we ever see a white bus or van go by without thinking of him, without thanking him.”
Robicheau leaves behind his wife Delia and extended family, that includes his brothers Cedric, Paulin, Randy and George Robicheau and sisters, Claudette Robichaud and Vern Gaudet.
Note: Details about funeral arrangements for Mr. Claredon Robicheau were still being discussed, however, Transport de Clare manager Cathy Theriault stated that further details would be shared with the community by the family as soon as possible.