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A Tribute to Dr. William J. Orr - Founder and Niagara Children’s Centre Champion

March 27, 2018

Dr. OrrNiagara Children’s Centre mourns the loss of our founder and visionary (March 26, 2018).

To his colleagues he was a hardworking leader in his field, to his family he was a dedicated and loving father and to families and children in Niagara he provided an endless amount of hope for the future. All that knew him describe him as the embodiment of altruism with a limitless store of humility.

Dr. William Orr was instrumental in establishing what is now known as Niagara Children’s Centre, a place for children and youth with physical, developmental and communicative delays and disabilities, where they can receive rehabilitation and support services. As a local physician and Rotarian, Dr. Orr dedicated countless hours to the creation of the Centre as a resource for families. Since the Centre’s humble beginnings in 1954 in the basement of the former St. Catharines General Hospital, Dr. Orr championed the work done to support children in Niagara. Dr. Orr selflessly devoted his time and knowledge, volunteering at clinics before the Centre was established, while relentlessly pursuing his dream of a Children’s Treatment Centre for Niagara. Niagara Children’s Centre was incorporated in 1964, with Dr. Orr serving as the Founding Chair and Medical Director.

His lifelong dream of creating a dedicated space for children to receive treatment was fully realized with the opening of Niagara Children’s Centre’s building at its current location in 1969. Dr. Orr served as Medical Director for 30 years until 1994. In an interview with the St. Catharines Standard in 2000, Dr. Orr explained, “I wanted a place where the children could go to get real help.” Throughout his years with the Centre, Dr. Orr did not accept a salary. In the same interview, his wife (since deceased), Edith Orr, explained her husband's choice: “Bill didn’t want to gain anything from the children. He didn’t take any remuneration at all. He returned everything to the Centre.”

Over the years, Dr. Orr was honoured with many awards, including the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship, Ontario’s highest award for the civic spirit, and the Glen Sawyer Service Award from the Ontario Medical Association. In 2014, the Board of Directors established the Dr. William J. Orr Tribute award to honour the legacy of Dr. Orr and recognize others who have shown dedication to impacting the quality of life of children and youth with disabilities.

Even after Dr. Orr’s retirement he continued to follow the developments of Niagara Children’s Centre with genuine interest. He enjoyed his visits to the Centre and his face would light up when he would see the children receiving their therapy.

Niagara Children’s Centre and the countless children and families the Centre has helped truly owe a great deal to our founding father and visionary, Dr. William J. Orr. He will be dearly missed, though his legacy will continue through the work of the Centre.