Written by Dr. Robert Steadward
Eric had never been involved in any sport activity growing up in rural Newfoundland & Labrador. Paraplegic as a result of Polio in 1953, he graduated from Engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s in 1963 after which he moved to Halifax. It was there he met Don Curran, a legend in wheelchair sports and Executive Director of CPA, Nova Scotia. Don ‘strongly’ encouraged Eric to give wheelchair basketball a try and he did! He played recreational basketball with the Nova Scotia Flying Wheels Flyers for the next six years.
From 1964-1971 he was actively involved in Wheelchair Sports while living in Halifax and Fredericton. He played basketball for approximately 5 years in an Atlantic League. He was on the Nova Scotia Provincial team for 4 years, however, his main interest and specialty was track and weightlifting.
He was a member of the Canadian Team that competed at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg. He set a new World Record for the 1500m in a time of 6 minutes 20 seconds! As Eric states “I was using a standard hospital chair with fixed armrests and removable footrests”.
Eric also represented Canada at the Pan Am Games in Argentina in 1969, winning a silver medal in the1500m and silver in Weightlifting.
Eric returned to Newfoundland in 1971 when his brother Gilbert sustained a spinal cord injury. This traumatic event, and a lot of coaching from his Mentor, Don Curran, led Eric to establish a Division of Canadian Paraplegic Association in NL. He served as CEO of CPA NL (1975-78), CEO CPA Alberta (1983-1988) and CEO CPA National Office (1993-2001)
While in Alberta, Eric maintained his involvement with Wheelchair basketball, playing with the Northern Lights in the Recreational league. He also learned to ski and was an active member of the Alberta Disabled Skiing program and an instructor at Rabbit Hill.
He officially retired in 2001, but worked on contract with the Rick Hansen Foundation until he retired in 2010 as Founding CEO of Rick Hansen Institute.
Eric is the father of three children, Corrina, Monique and Paul (deceased 2007). The girls and grandchildren (7) spend most summers with their dad and grandfather at his summer home in Tizzard's Harbour.
Over his lifetime, Eric has been an accomplished Private Pilot, avid woodworker and outdoors enthusiast. He is still active in a number of small business ventures.