Slykhuis lived with diabetes 82 years

For 82 years, John Slykhuis of Summerland controlled his diabetes with insulin and through careful management of his diet.

John Slykhuis was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 12. For the next 82 years

John Slykhuis was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 12. For the next 82 years

For 82 years, John Slykhuis of Summerland controlled his diabetes with insulin and through careful management of his diet.

Slykhuis, who died on Feb. 9, coped with the condition longer than anyone in Canada or possibly the world.

He was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 12 and on Oct. 5, 1932, he took his first shot of insulin.

Slykhuis was better known in Summerland for his active role in the community.

A member of the New Democratic Party and the Summerland United Church, he was named Man of the Year by the Summerland Chamber of Commerce for founding the pioneer workshops where children could learn how to grind wheat into flour, make rope and build things out of scrap lumber.

His active retirement followed a career as an international expert on plant diseases. He was a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and of the Royal Society of Canada

His long and accomplished career began in a one-room school house near his father`s farm in Carlyle Saskatchewan.

Because of his diabetes, Slykhuis could not do farm work or serve in the armed forces.

He saved the money he earned from raising sheep and went to the University of Saskatchewan where he specialized in plant diseases. He earned a B.S.A. in 1942 and a M.Sc. in 1943, then attended the University of Toronto where he was granted a Ph.D in 1947 for his research into fungi that cause root rot.

He worked for the Canadian Department of Agriculture in Harrow, Ont.; Brookings, South Dakota,(1949-52); Lethbridge, Alta., Harpenden, Hertfordshire, England; Ottawa, Ont. and Summerland until his retirement in 1985.

Along the way he discovered that plant viruses could be transmitted by microscopic insects and he identified several previously unrecognized diseases.  Only England and Holland had prior knowledge of grass viruses. His discoveries stimulated a great deal of research and international interest.

At the Summerland Agricultural Research Station, he discovered the cause of Little Cherry Disease that makes the fruit small, sour and unmarketable.

Next he worked on Apple Replant Disease that stops the growth of young apple trees in old orchards. The work was not finished when he was forced to retire on his 65th birthday, so he moved soil testing operations for local orchardists into the garage of his home.

Slykhuis was happy to end his career in Summerland, the birthplace of his wife, Ruth Williams.

With his first wife, Ruth, he had five children. (Grace (Yuan Woo, Vancouver), Margaret (Jim Beaudry, Creston), Dorothy (Richard Landry, Montreal), Timothy (JoLam Situ, Ottawa) and Alan. After Ruth succumbed to Amyotropic Lateral (A.L.S.) he then married Ellen Light née Reinholdt from Hussar, Alberta. They were introduced by Ruth who learned that Ellen’s husband, Earnest Light, also had A.L.S. .Ellen has three sons Terry (Anne), Bob (Karen) and David.

John’s carpentry was curtailed by macular degeneration. Never daunted by a challenge, he continued curling despite being blind and did his errands in town using a walker rigged with a bell and Christmas lights.  He also made active use of the CNIB talking book services.  Eventually John and Ellen moved into Summerland Seniors Village where they enjoyed the company of many old friends.

In August, 2015 they moved to Maple Ridge to be closer to their children. John passed away peacefully in Ridge Meadows Hospital, following a stroke and untreatable pneumonia.

A memorial service was held on Feb. 14 at the home of his brother Glenn and wife Martha Slykhuis in North Vancouver.