Carrying on Family Tradition
David Lazaruk lightly traces his fingertips against the raised dots of the thick braille book sitting on his lap. It’s been 60 years since he lost his sight. At just 9 years of age, a tumour developed in his brain. The surgery to remove it left both optic nerves damaged.
“One day I had sight,” recalls David in the comfort of his living room in Edmonton’s Rosedale assisted living facility. “The next day it was gone.”
Following the surgery, his neurologist registered him at W. Ross MacDonald School for students who are visually impaired or blind in Brantford, Ontario. “It was tough,” admits David, thinking about the sacrifices he made when he left his family to get an education. “But it was worth it.”
In school, he learned to read braille, only returning home during the summer months. His father, Tom, was a mechanic and business partner at a downtown service station who took many NAIT apprentices under his wing. “He had the knowledge. His specialty was carburetors then,” David says, proud of his father’s skill.
After Tom passed away in 1983, Mary, David’s mother, established the Tom Lazaurk Memorial Award, which has supported 25 first-year NAIT automotive service technician students.
The automotive trade has been an important part of the Lazurak family. Inspired by his father’s fulfilling career, David’s older brother became an apprentice. David, too, showed a keen interest in the trade. He took a few small engine repair courses at NAIT, and has fond memories of how his father often spent time with him under the hood of a car.
Over the years, David also discovered a passion for working with people. He’s worked in both the provincial and federal governments; he particularly enjoyed working with youth where his role included providing career advice and encouragement.
“I’ve been there,” he says, “It’s not an easy road, but I always told them they should stick with it.”
Among David’s many pursuits he’s also found his share of adventure. He’s been a part of small bands, playing drums, chimes and the marimba. He studied for 3 years, to become a certified ham radio operator and communicated with other enthusiasts all over the world. He became an avid skier, carving down mountain slopes in Alberta, British Columbia and Japan.
David, a member of the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing’s Alberta chapter, fondly remembers skiing Whistler Blackcomb. “The powder was up to here,” he says, gesturing to his chest. “It was calm and quiet. You know when you look up at the clouds and you see them sailing along? That’s how it felt.”
When Mary passed away in 2014, David continued to support the scholarship through an annual donation. In his will, he has also donated a portion of his own estate to NAIT, known as a bequest. That decision was driven by his father’s passion for the automotive trade and because David believes his mother would have wanted it. “I decided to leave a gift to NAIT, because of my father—it’s a legacy. It will last forever.”