From birth to death, Leslie and Irene Dubé support the health care journey, grounded in faith

Irene and Leslie Dubé with their dogs Ginger and Sugar. (Photo by Matt Braden, courtesy of St. Paul's Hospital Foundation)

Courtesy of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation  (Published in Spirit, The Voice of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation)

Leslie and Irene Dubé have changed the face of health care in Saskatoon.

Their goal has been to support the health system from birth to death, and they’ve donated to causes covering all types of medicine that people may need to access during their lifetime. “The need is the greatest in health care,” Irene says. “Everybody gets sick and they have to have proper care – and we should be able to get that care here within our own province.”

The Dubés’ name can be found on many health initiatives throughout the city, including the Leslie and Irene Dubé Urology Centre for Health at St. Paul’s Hospital. The Urology Centre is crucial to St. Paul’s Hospital and how it functions in connection with renal health, transplants, dialysis, bloodwork and more

These dedicated and caring philanthropists are committed to bringing innovative technology and services to St. Paul’s Hospital. In total the Dubés have donated more than $8 million to St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, helping support purchases such as the first lithotripter (equipment that breaks-up kidney stones) in Saskatchewan, $1 million to the MRI suite and $1 million for urology support.

Now, the Dubés are supporting end-of-life care through a $2-million donation to the Close to Home Campaign for Hospice and End-of-Life Care: $1 million for capital construction and $1 million for the Leslie and Irene Dubé Holistic Care Endowment. The endowment will support spiritual care, bereavement care and art therapy in the Hospice at Glengarda.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen with Irene and Leslie Dubé at the sod turning ceremony for the new Hospice at Glengarda in Saskatoon, held May 28, 2019. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Envisioning a better death

The Dubés are fulfilling a vision they first realized decades ago when Leslie was Chair of the St. Paul’s Hospital Board of Directors and construction of the Hospital’s B-Wing was underway.

Even then the couple was promoting the idea of building a hospice. They had purchased a property owned by the Grey Nuns and donated it to the Hospital in the hopes that it could become a hospice. That property eventually became Sanctum, which provides care – including end-of-life care – for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Leslie is pleased to now support the Hospice at Glengarda because he wants people who are at the end of their lives to be at peace, explaining that “There will be somebody there to gently take care of them; someone with them when they die.”

“Death should be something that’s quiet and gentle and peaceful. You come into the world and it is not quiet and peaceful,” Irene says with a smile, “but you should leave it that way.”

One very direct and real way she’s delivering comfort to patients and families is by knitting 30 afghan blankets for the new Hospice at Glengarda, now being built in Saskatoon through the efforts of the Close to Home Campaign. The touch of softness can change any setting into one that feels more like home because “you can cuddle up” says Leslie.

Over the years Irene has made hundreds of blankets for many different organizations, including the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital, and a prayer is knit into every afghan she makes.

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Groundbreaking for Hospice at Glengarda: Catholic Saskatoon News ARTICLE

Campaign honorary co-chairs Gene and Adele Dupuis are champions of hospice care: ARTICLE

The importance of Catholic health care

In Saskatoon, the Dubés live in an unassuming home on an unassuming street. Guests are greeted by two curious and friendly Maltese poodles – Ginger and Sugar.

On their mantlepiece sits a very special photograph, taken in 1990 when they were in Rome for the canonization of St. Marguerite d’Youville, the patron saint of St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon. At that ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, The Grey Nuns chose the Dubé to be included in the select group of people to receive communion from the Pope. “It was a marvellous thing,” Leslie says. “You never forget that.”

Leslie and Irene are devout Catholics who have been supporting St. Paul’s Hospital for many years. “Our heart always has been with St. Paul’s,” Leslie says. “First of all because it is a Catholic hospital, but secondly the fact that I participated for 16 years on the Hospital Board of Directors, and it was a wonderful experience working with the Grey Nuns.”

The Dubés deeply appreciate that St. Paul’s Hospital offers spiritual care and values treating the mind, body and soul. “Prayer is one of the most powerful tools that you can possibly use,” Irene says.

“I’m a living example that prayer works.” She herself has survived 10 surgeries, none of them simple or straightforward. “Every time I had surgery, they said, ‘She might not come out of this one.’ And so Les prayed. And the power of prayer is why I’m here.”

Their journey through health care has led them to touch the lives of countless people along the way, in all walks of life. “God gave us good health and the opportunity to be successful,” Leslie says. “We didn’t do this ourselves. When I pray, I pray for all those people who helped us. It’s all God’s money that we’re giving away and we are the custodians.”

“We’re trying to be good stewards,” Irene concludes. “We’d like to leave the world a little better than when we came in.”

Terry and Denis Sirois keep it local with donation to hospice: Catholic Saskatoon News ARTICLE

Saskatoon couple gives $650,000 to campaign to build Saskatoon’s first hospice – ARTICLE

Joe Remai gives $500,000 to Close to Home hospice campaign – ARTICLE

Marvin and Pat DeSchryver: Working Together for Change – ARTICLE

Earlier this year, Irene and Leslie Dubé presented a donation of $2 million to the Close to Home Campaign to build the Hospice and strengthen end-of-life care in the community. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)