Garnet Boyd Receives Award

by Carol-Ann NICHOLSON
Courier Staff


Awarda.jpg - 29253 BytesST. STEPHEN -- Garnet Boyd has received an award, posthumously, for his work as an outstanding advocate for the blind, particularly in the public acceptance of guide dogs. Click here or on picture for enhanced photo.

The award was presented to Boyd's widow, Diana Boyd, at a recent ceremony in Fredericton attended by Lt. Governor Marilyn Trenholme Counsell.

Each year the organizing commitee for Disability Awareness Week receives nominations from across the province. They recognize outstanding service on behalf of persons with disabilities. 

Randy Dickinson of the Premier's Council on the Status of Disabled Persons explains that only three awards are given out each year to highlight the extraordinary merit of the services provides by the winners.

Boyd is recognized for being an outstanding advocate for the blind, particularly in reference to the acceptance of guide dogs in public facilities.

"It's an honour, one rightly deserved for Garnet," says Diana Boyd. 

He put his infirmity to use and something good came out of it. He didn't just curl up and hide away.

"I'm very pleased about the honour because it is all about Garnet.

"For example, he was instrumental in getting the legislators together to allow guide dogs into restaurants.

"Each time I see the stamp on a restaurant window or door, the one noting the admissibility of guide dogs, I think of him.

"He did a lot."

Diana Boyd says she remembers when her husband flew into Saint John from a trip. "He was coming back to St. Stephen from New Jersey with his first seeing eye dog, Peyton," she says. "The bus driver coming to St. Stephen would not let Garnet or the dog get on the bus. He called me but I couldn't come get him because I didn't drive,then. It was not a pleasant experience.

"When Garnet did get here he told me he was going to work to make certain that never happened to another blind person."

Garnet Boyd was 38 when he was injured and blinded as a passenger in a car accident. He was married with three young children.

Following the accident, he moved his family to St. Stephen and quickly became a fixture in the town with his regular evening walks accompanied by one or more of his children.

As his children grew and formed interests of their own, he chose to become more independent by becoming a client of the Seeing Eye Guide Dog Program based in Morristown, N.J. The program was founded in the US in 1929, based on methods developed in Switzerland to help train dogs for WWI veterans.

With his first guide dog, Peyton, in the early sixties, Boyd became the first known successful user of a seeing eye guide dog in the Maritimes. Over the years, he would train with new dogs, Ava, and then Watson, as each animal retired when no longer able to serve.

Boyd visited local schools, speaking to every classroom, teacher and class in Charlotte County, plus McAdam, Harvey and even Calais High School. He spoke about the need for public awareness on how to help persons who are blind lead more independent lives.

Garnet Boyd was also well-known for his musical ability at the piano and in writing and singing his own songs as well as playing an eclectic variety of music composed by others.

He enjoyed listening to talking books from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Although blind, Boyd used a typewriter to write a weekly newspaper column called "Boyd's Eye View" for The Saint Croix Courier. He also wrote short stories, letters to the editor and corresponded with many contacts.

He was active in local and provincial politics and even ran a small refrigeration and plumbing business as he enjoyed fixing things.

One of his most important achievements on behalf of persons with disabilities was his personal role in drafting and lobbying the first legislation in the Maritimes which provided legal protection for blind persons being able to have their guide dogs allowed into public facilities. His efforts paid off which specific provisions in the N.B. Human Rights Act in 1976 and subsequent provisions for the use of guide dogs in the Health Act of 1984.

Boyd died in 1983 at the age of 64. He is an example of an active life and his advocacy on behalf of persons who are blind and the use of guide dogs remains as his legacy. -- Weekend Courier, June 9, 2000