Clarence Haynes championed diabetes awareness for 33 years



That was Clarence Haynes’ last posting on his profile at 12:32 p.m. on December 4. A day later, the 93-year-old who lived with Type 2 diabetes for the past 33 years, died at the West Manor long-term care facility in south Etobicoke.

Haynes, who had 344 friends on the diabetes social network site, learned to use the computer three years ago and found it to be a very useful technological tool in promoting the Blue Rose Diabetes Foundation of Canada he co-founded with fellow diabetic and crooner Jim Cormier who provides one-man entertainment shows at nursing homes across the Greater Toronto Area.

Last year, they launched the website, Haynes said the name “blue rose” was chosen because it signifies attaining the impossible in some cultures.

The nonagenarian’s encounter with diabetes began in 1977 on a family trip to Nantucket in Massachusetts when he started to feel sick and his glucose level plummeted to 880.

Normal glucose levels fall between 70 and 150 mg.

When Haynes learned he would be a diabetic for the rest of his life, he did not sag with the disturbing news. Instead, he soaked in the medical practitioner’s ground rules which he adhered to until his death.

His interest in diabetes was further heightened after meeting Edward Banting, the nephew of University of Toronto lecturer Dr. Frederick Banting who, along with then medical student Dr. Charles Best, discovered insulin which is a hormone that’s central to regulating the energy and glucose metabolism in the body.

Banting, who was knighted by King George V, sold his patent for $1 because he wanted the medicine to be affordable.

Haynes advocated for the restoration of the Banting estate in Alliston which he hoped would, with the support of insulin-dependent diabetics worldwide, be turned into a diabetic camp for children suffering with the disease.

In 1978, he teamed up with the late Sonnee Cohen to start a global diabetes information service. They staged their first health fair later that year at Sherway Gardens Shopping Mall, with Haynes distributing almost 25,000 brochures related to diabetes and its complications.

Born to West Indian parents in Montreal in 1917, Haynes moved to Windsor and worked with the Ford Motor Company for a few years before joining Canadian National Railway (CNR) in 1939. He was a porter for 25 years, working alongside several prominent Black Canadians including the late Harry Gairey, considered the patriarch of Toronto’s Black community.

Haynes appeared as a butler in the 1969 science fiction/drama movie, Change of Mind, starring Raymond St. Jacques, Susan Oliver and Leslie Nielsen. That same year, the now defunct Underground Railroad soul food restaurant, co-owned by former Toronto Argonauts stars Dave Mann and John Henry Jackson, entrepreneur Howard Matthews and renowned drummer Archie Alleyne, hired Haynes as the maitre d’.

“Clarence read that we were about to open the business and he came down and got the job,” recalled Alleyne. “He was one of our first employees and the person who would welcome visitors. He was very elegant and he knew the history of the Underground Railroad which he would often share with inquisitive customers. In addition, he was well connected to various tourist boards in North America and most of the bus drivers that would bring tourists from the United States knew him. As a result, they would transport these busloads of people to the restaurant for dinner.”

The longtime Toronto Bathurst Lions Club member spent 13 years with the restaurant until it changed ownership in 1982.

Haynes was predeceased by Lynne, his wife of 63 years, who died at the same nursing home last April.

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