A Gift in A Will: An Expression of Gratitude for Care and Kindness During Illness
Albert’s Last Wish: Helping People in the Community
with biographical excerpts written by Marianne Bohl and David H. Smith
Albert and Giselle Volker always wanted to support people and make a difference in their lives. They generously contributed to numerous charities in their lifetime, and Albert’s last wish was to help the people in the Kitchener-Waterloo community where he and Giselle lived for 25 years. He chose to make that wish come true by leaving a gift in his Will to Grand River Hospital and St. Mary’s General Hospital in support of their joint MRI campaign.
Eckehard Alberto Volker, known as Albert, was born in the Lennep District of Remscheid Germany, the birthplace of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, on October 24, 1929. He met Giselle, the love of his life, there. While in Germany, Albert enjoyed and spent much of his time studying—he was like a sponge, soaking up everything that he studied or saw.
In 1953, Albert immigrated to Australia with Giselle where they were married. Australia was in a recession at the time, and Albert was 23 years old with $3 to his name. He worked very hard at numerous jobs, but he wanted and craved so much more intellectually. This led him to study mechanical and electrical engineering and eventually open up an air conditioning school.
At the age of 34, Albert had just finished a huge project in Germany and was on his way to St. Paulo, Brazil for another large work project—his professional expertise was in great demand. On the way to Brazil, Albert and Giselle had a stopover in Ontario and never left. They fell in love with Canada and decided to make Ontario their home.
Albert was a Doctor of Engineering, an artist, a musician, an entrepreneur, an inventor, an author, an astrobiologist, a consultant and an avid collector of artifacts from across the world. He studied physics, chemistry, math, biology, economics, fine arts and some law. He taught at the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ryerson University, the University of Toronto and in Cambridge, England. In Ontario, he worked on many notable projects including the CN Tower, McMaster University and one of the province’s nuclear power stations. He worked for Ayres Consulting for many years before opening his own consulting firm.
Beyond his impressive professional achievements, Albert was also known for his personal passions. He spoke with great enthusiasm of having played in 61 different casinos, with roulette being his favourite game; he said he was a master of the game. Albert was known for his sweet tooth and his great love of both chocolate and cake. He and Giselle were also both talented artists—until the very end of his life, Albert was always creating new art forms, which kept his mind sharp and active.
Travel was also a lifelong passion of Albert and Giselle’s: they went on numerous trips and cruises all over the world. Albert retired three times during his lifetime, and during each of his retirements, he and Giselle would travel to study and explore together.
“Calling Albert brilliant is an understatement,” said Marianne Bohl and David H. Smith, the executors of Albert’s estate. “You simply can’t put Albert into words.”
During their later years, both Albert and Giselle required hospital care and admissions. They were very grateful for the services and care that they received at Grand River Hospital and St. Mary’s General Hospital.
When Giselle died at St. Mary’s, after being admitted very briefly, Albert was very grateful for and impressed by the care she received and how they had looked after her with such compassion. During his last admission at Grand River Hospital, Albert mentioned that the hospital was just wonderful. Marianne and David recalled, from numerous observations, that Albert received excellent care there during his last few weeks.
“This included the cleaning staff, the Tim Horton’s staff who helped bring up coffee and treats, the administration staff, the porters, the medical imaging staff, the nurses, the palliative care staff, the spiritual care staff, the emergency department staff, the ambulance crew and the doctors! They were always kind, caring, gentle, thoughtful, respectful, compassionate, thorough, supportive and attentive,” they said, noting that the staff provided this high level of care all while also working through the challenges of COVID-19.