On Wednesday March 20th 2019, at the age of 69, Dennis Lester Anderson, the loving husband of Barbara Anderson passed away from complications of severe sleep apnea.
Dennis was born August 16th 1949 in Edmonton to Lester and Amy (Caron) Anderson. He married Barbara Lupasko on August 21st 1971. He is survived by his wife Barbara, sisters Colleen Anderson and Randi Lee Ryder, brother Brent Anderson (Mary Jane Tallon), nephew Kris (Michele), great nephew and great niece Alex and Ashley. He is also survived by his beloved feline companions, Pi and Flair.
As the eldest of four children, Dennis took on the role of mentor and supporter of his younger siblings. He encouraged people around him to succeed in whatever they focussed on. He was a solid and invaluable friend to those who knew him. Dennis was an avid learner and always spent his spare time reading and learning. He read widely from classics to modern speculative fiction. He also had a passion for travel and visited parts of every continent except Antarctica. But most of his knowledge and understanding of the world came from the deep and strong relationships he built with people. Dennis always made a point to learn something from every person he met. Knowing what people thought and what they valued was important to him.
Dennis spent his life finding ways to make the world a better place for others by serving the public good. When he attended Rochdale College in Toronto, Dennis started the Rochdale Drug Crisis Centre. He studied at Mount Royal College in Calgary in Communications Media, then worked for CKUA radio where he hosted shows on current events.
After first running for public school trustee, he found his way into provincial politics. He served as an MLA in the governments of Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein. Through his fourteen-year career in politics he was minister of several portfolios: Municipal Affairs and Housing; Consumer and Corporate Affairs; and last as Minister of Culture and Multiculturalism and Women’s Issues. He also served as deputy house leader and was the primary lead for the Alberta legislative committees on Canada’s constitution and Senate reform. As a cabinet minister, he championed causes such as plain language legislation, and Vision 2020, a program assisting municipalities in preparing for future changes.
After his retirement from political life in 1993, Dennis worked tirelessly to advance the cause of mental health. He was a long-time member of the Canadian Mental Health Association, serving as president and on the national executive. He was given a lifetime membership in the CMHA and awarded the President’s Cup for his service to the promotion of mental health. He was also granted the Medal of Honour from the Alberta Medical Association for his work.
Dennis believed passionately that pets and animals not only added value to our lives, but they could also help to improve therapy outcomes in mental health. In order to prove and promote this, he created the Chimo Project for which he received the Hero’s Award with his pioneering. This project helps therapists improve their practice through pet-assisted therapy for clients. The Chimo project was one of his greatest legacies.
In his desire to improve the world, Dennis travelled overseas with the US National Democratic Institute as an expert on local government and political parties to assist in developing democratic structures in Russia. Then he travelled to Peru to support the Defensoria del Pueblo on human rights, and twice to the Ukraine to observe and report on elections with the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe. Later he travelled to India at the request of the Chellamuthu Trust to advise on community mental health. As Commissioner of the Edmonton Police Commission from 2006-2012, and chair of all Alberta Police Commissions, he initiated mental health training for police.
As the founding chair of the Alberta Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Illness, Dennis worked to bring non-governmental organizations together to work with government. He was also a founding chair of the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health, which focused attention on issues of mental health. While serving on the Edmonton Police Commission he also served as Chairperson of the Alberta Association for Police Governance, with his focus being to help police be better prepared to deal with people with mental health issues. The Canadian Mental Health Association awarded him the C.M. Hincks Award for his long volunteer service to the cause of mental health. In 2017 the University of Alberta awarded Dennis an Honorary Doctorate of Laws for his advocacy of mental health.
Since 2000, Dennis had served as honorary Consul, and Consul General for Thailand, responsible for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Dennis was granted many honours and awards for his public service, including Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant, and Companion of the Order of the Crown of Thailand for his commitment to serving as Honorary Consul General.
He was awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Caring Canadian Award, and the Canadian125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal. While Dennis was honoured by many for his service it was not recognition he sought but a better world and a better life for those living with mental illness. Dennis had a love for animals and personally understood how they support our humanity. He always had pets and credits his dog, Sally, with saving his life when he was suffering from depression as a youth. It was the unreserved and unquestioning love he saw in companion animals that drove him to show this to the world. Dennis believed strongly that there was good in all people and he worked to bring that out, and always hoped he was changing the world for the better.
Dennis will be greatly missed by family, friends and the communities he served.
Please make any donations in lieu of flowers to the Chimo Animal Assisted Wellness and Learning Society (CAAWLS.org), the Alberta SPCA, Edmonton Humane Society or CMHA Edmonton (Canadian Mental Health Association Edmonton), 300 10010 – 105 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 1C4 or any Children’s charity that focuses on mental health.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Dennis at the Oasis Centre, 10930 177th Street, Edmonton starting at 1:00 pm on Friday April 12th 2019.