Howard Willems' Story

asbestoshowardHoward was a food inspector for the federal government and he inspected dairy and honey facilities. Many of these facilities were older buildings that contained asbestos and Howard was present during renovations. However, Howard had no idea that asbestos was in the buildings and that he was inhaling the asbestos fibres that had been disturbed.

In 2010, Howard was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos that is always fatal. Most mesothelioma patients only live for approximately two years after their diagnosis and Howard was no exception. He went through several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation treatments and an operation to remove a lung and nothing could stop the cancer from spreading. We were helpless as we watched a once physically fit and strong man almost become unrecognizable to us as he was reduced to nothing but skin and bones and struggled for every breath. Shortly after being admitted to the hospital, Howard gathered us around his bed and told us he was tired, he wanted to rest, and that he wasn't going to fight death anymore. Those were the last words he spoke to anyone, and two days later, he passed away.

Even though Howard deteriorated physically, his mind stayed strong and he fought until the very end. Not only did he fight for his own life, but he also fought to save the lives of others. Howard co-founded the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization with the purpose of creating a public registry of buildings containing asbestos. Even though Howard still had hope that he could beat the cancer, he knew the odds were against him, so he dedicated the last years of his life to trying to prevent others from suffering the same fate he did.

We lost a great man to asbestos. He always put the needs of others before his own and he fought for a registry until the very end because he knew that it could save people's lives. Howard won a partial victory a few days after his passing when the Saskatchewan Government announced it would create a voluntary registry. However, this does not go far enough. Howard believed that we needed a mandatory registry because a voluntary registry would be incomplete. An incomplete list would only lead to more exposure to asbestos and more families having to watch a loved one suffer. Howard was not asking for much. He simply believed that people had the right to know whether or not asbestos is present in the buildings that people enter. The legislation to create an asbestos registry is now being called Howard's Law and we want to put an end to any more stories like Howard's. We are extremely pleased to inform you that, thanks to your support, Howard's Law (Bill 604) was passed April 18, 2013.asbestoshoward2

Page Last Updated: 13/11/2014