Celebrating our Donors: William (Bill) Atkinson

William Atkinson at a Dining in the Dark EventBorn in 1917, William (Bill) Atkinson has seen a lot in his 100 years. He is a family man, World War II veteran, retired entrepreneur, community leader and philanthropist.

Atkinson moved to Winnipeg from Dinsmore, Saskatchewan after graduating high school with a mere 35 dollars in his pocket. He lived in a boarding house and worked hard at various jobs before joining Winnipeg Supply and Fuel. He married his beloved Dorothy in 1940. That same year, Atkinson joined the Canadian Field Artillery and was deployed overseas in 1943. His service in Europe included combat and delivering essential supplies and food to the starving Dutch citizens in Rotterdam after all the ports were closed off. After the war, he returned to Dorothy, and they raised three daughters. Atkinson continued working at Winnipeg Supply and Fuel until he started his own company in 1973, ABCO Supply and Service, a leading supplier of multi-trade contracting in Winnipeg.

Since retiring in 1984, he has been devoted to his family and has served as an enthusiastic volunteer and a quiet philanthropist. Giving back to the community has always been important to Atkinson and his family. Knowing that he could still contribute to society, Atkinson kept busy by volunteering for Meals on Wheels, driving patients to appointments at CancerCare Manitoba and sitting in shopping centre booths for hours on end as a CNIB ambassador selling car raffle tickets. He also cared for Dorothy until she passed way in 2017.

For the family, philanthropy was just as important as volunteerism. The Atkinsons set up college bursaries and donated to local not-for-profit organizations. Among a select group of charities, CNIB was chosen by the Atkinson family to receive a legacy gift when Dorothy passed.

When asked why he chose CNIB as the recipient of his donations and volunteer hours, his answer is simple. “I knew that CNIB did some fine work for the community. Their work is extremely important to the lives of everyone who needs their services,” says Atkinson.

Atkinson has been blessed with the gift of sight throughout his life and has experienced some minor vision impairment in the past few years due to what he calls “old age”.

“There are no significant eye problems in my family. I am fortunate, but I now go to the CNIB store regularly to find items that help me with my day-to-day life. They have products that help with vision impairment that you cannot find elsewhere. I bought a large-print keyboard for my computer, a magnifier and a couple of scanners that help me read my papers.”

Atkinson loves technology and enjoys watching it evolve as it continuously improves to assist people living with vision loss. He is also delighted that CNIB continues to advocate for its clients’ rights for access to these modern tools to make their homes and workplaces more accessible. Above all, he is proud that Dorothy’s legacy gift is being put to good use by CNIB. “There is a feeling of accomplishment, seeing this organization progressing and doing new things. They really are making remarkable progress. We are living in an exciting time with all the new devices available (to the visually-impaired),” Atkinson shares.

Bill Atkinson is happy that he can contribute financially to an organization that he has spent years getting to know as a volunteer. Though Manitoba’s annual CNIB car raffle has now been defunct for a few years, Atkinson is still remembered by many of his fellow volunteers and members of the public who have purchased tickets from him. His charm, humour, kindness and generosity are everlasting. He continues to be active in the community and inspires others to do the same. Living independently down the street from Winnipeg’s CNIB headquarters, he still visits regularly and checks out the new stock of assistive devices in the store. He also attends and supports CNIB fundraising events throughout the year. At 100 years young, he has no plans on slowing down.