Chatham-Kent has lost a proud supporter of local healthcare and sports.
Frank Uniac passed away Feb. 6 at age 93, leaving a legacy of giving back to the community.
Uniac and his late wife Mary, a long-time nurse who passed away in December 2010, “together believed strongly in giving back,” said long-time friend and neighbour Mike Peach.
As a result, the couple have left their mark on local healthcare.
Uniac donated the money to create the Mary Uniac Health Sciences Education Centre at the Thames Campus of St. Clair College. The 7,500-square-foot facility provides labs and simulation suites to help train nursing students.
In 2017, he donated the money to upgrade the main lecture hall at the college to add swivel chairs and desks to the 120-student space.
The hall was renamed in the A.W. Clapp Family Lecture Hall,” in honour of his wife’s family.
His many contributions to the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance includes redeveloping the auditorium, which was renamed the Frank and Mary Uniac Auditorium.
Peach said his friend “wanted to honour Mary with his continued support of healthcare in Chatham Kent.”
He added, “Frank and Mary didn’t like public recognition for their good deeds. But they were truly ‘gems,’ and liked to only shine in the background.”
Mary Lou Crowley, executive director of the Foundation of Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, said when she arrived in the community about 15 months ago, one of the first things she did in her new job was meet with Uniac.
“What strikes me about Frank is his passion and his commitment to many things, not just the hospital, but to so many charities,” she said.
Crowley said Uniac was a “true philanthropist, he believes in giving back, he believes in helping others.”
She added he always wanted to contribute in a way that would have a positive impact.
“It wasn’t about him or Mary,” Crowley said.
She added it was more about what Chatham-Kent meant to them and their belief that “we need to have the healthcare that we need right here in our community.”
Peach said it was hockey that brought Uniac to Chatham from Stratford.
He joined the Chatham Maroons in 1949 and was later a founding member of Chatham Minor Hockey in 1951.
“Frank felt driven to grow the game and create an opportunity for kid’s to play,” Peach said.
Uniac was also actively involved in Chatham Minor Baseball.
“Hockey, and as well his involvement with minor baseball, allowed for him to be active,” Peach said.
Coming to Chatham is ultimately the most important thing that happened to him, because it allowed him to meet Mary, the love of his life, Peach added.
Uniac was proud of his home town of Stratford, were he grew up.
“But after coming to Chatham, it became his home, and he felt obliged to giving back to the community,” Peach said.
He said Uniac’s main belief in life was “to be a good person.
“He told me he came to Chatham with the rear end ripped out of his pants, worked hard, invested wisely, was fortunate and got lucky,” Peach said.
“It was important for he and Mary the to pass their good luck and good fortune on to others,” he added.