By David and Inese Hanson
When we started our Comfort Keepers franchise in Calgary in 2004, we were the system’s first franchisees anywhere in Canada. As such, we had a lot to learn, but our business growth has been steady ever since.
I was born in Prince Albert, Sask., and grew up with four siblings. Our father was a rancher and our mother was very entrepreneurial. She was a nurse and owned a small hospital that served the local native community, as she had experience working in the health field on the native reserves. Her hospital was funded by the federal government.
She also had other ventures over the years, including a nursing home, along with recreational property she and my father bought and operated as a campground. She was always looking for a new project.
I had a typical, active childhood. I was very athletic, playing football and basketball.
Education was not a priority for me when I was young. I wasn’t a bad student growing up, but after high school, I floundered, with no idea what to do for my career. I started studying at the University of Alberta, dropped out when my father passed away and worked for a while in mining in northern Manitoba.
Then I went to the University of Saskatchewan and studied kinesiology for two years before taking a year off, this time to play football. Then I went back and finished school, graduating in 1973 with two degrees, one in education and the other in kinesiology. I wanted that combined degree so I could teach not only physical education (phys ed), but also other classes.
After travelling in Europe for a year, I did indeed begin teaching phys ed and other subjects at a small, rural junior/senior high school in Cluny, Alta., southeast of Calgary. I was there for a year, then moved to Calgary and taught in special settings for junior high students with emotional problems for four years, starting in 1978.
My parents came to Canada from Latvia. I was born and raised in in Winnipeg with a strong European heritage. We only spoke Latvian at home.
I have an older brother and a sister. All three of us attended university, as did our mother after our father passed away.
Like David, I was very active in sports. During my elementary and junior high school years, I enjoyed speed skating and figure skating in the winter and softball in the summer. I was also very community-oriented, getting involved in clubs like the Brownies, Girl Guides, Explorers and Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT).
In high school, my focus turned more to team sports. I joined my school’s volleyball, basketball and track and field teams. My summers were spent playing tennis and camping with friends.
I went to the University of Manitoba’s faculty of arts for a couple of years before transferring to the faculty of kinesiology, which at that time was known as the faculty of physical education. While in phys ed, I pursued the recreational stream. Off-campus, I refereed volleyball games, volunteered at rehabilitation centres and ran activity programs at a paraplegic residence.
I was also a member of the Alpha Delta Phi sorority on campus. As part of our mandate, we were very involved in philanthropic community initiatives.
The summer after I graduated, a group of my classmates and I travelled for a month throughout the U.K. We hiked in Wales and kayaked and sailed in the ocean off the coast of Scotland.
When I returned home, a friend and I decided to move to Calgary, as we both wanted to spend more time skiing. My first job was for the city, teaching a lot of fitness classes and refereeing volleyball.
In 1978, I took a summer position at William Roper Hull Home, a special residential treatment centre for behaviourally challenged children. When September came, I stayed on full-time as a recreational therapist.
David also began teaching at Hull Home in September and that’s when we first met.