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Gwendolin R. Cashion (nee Pinkerton)

Born: April 16, 1925

Passed away: February 9, 2016

She lived on a farm homesteaded by her father until moving to Calgary at the age of 7 after farming became too difficult with the droughts and Depression in the 1930's. She attended schools in Calgary and was a member of the first group of Occupational Therapists to graduate at the University of Toronto in 1946. Returning to Calgary, she worked for the telephone company and also as a geophysical tech for an oil company until she was married to Dan in 1950. After she was married, she was asked to resign since it was not proper for a married woman to work in that era. She continued to work at the oil company until she became pregnant with the first of six children.

While looking for office work after her 5th child, a chance meeting at the government employment office led to her being invited to work as an Occupational Therapist. She loved this work and maintained an active interest in helping physically and mentally challenged people for the next 20 years. She obtained a teaching degree in the early 1970's, following this up with a Masters in Educational Psychology. As part of her Master thesis, she developed new programs to be used in one of the first schools in Calgary specifically designed for people with special needs. She then worked as an Educational Psychologist with the Calgary School Board and ended her career as head of the Educational Psychology department.

An insight into her determination and dedication, she quipped late in her life "I don't know what I would have done without those two businesses…" She was referring to the period in the mid-1960's when she was working as an OT, had five children at home to manage and was running two home-based businesses with her husband.

Interest in Psychology

Through her professional pursuits as well as her personal life, Gwen was exposed to mentally challenged people. Out of these experiences, she developed an interest in helping those who are affected by Schizophrenia. She observed that some of the mentally challenged people she worked with exhibited mild traits associated with Schizophrenia. In addition, she noticed similar patterns in children she helped while working as an educational psychologist. Many of these children had a difficult home life. The common characteristic between the two groups was being deprived of stable, consistent environment which, among other things, included adequate nurturing, affection and approval. She felt people in this situation, children being especially vulnerable, tended to withdraw for protection, as a defensive posture. In the extreme, this withdrawal can take on the qualities associated with Schizophrenia. Though she was not able to pursue this hypothesis professionally, she continued to investigate the implications of being labeled Schizophrenic, believing (at least in some cases) it may have more to do with a defensive posture gone awry.

That Schizophrenia is a symptom rather than a pure mental illness.

Throughout her career and in her personal life, Gwen felt relaxation techniques were a key to wellness. She developed special exercises and programs for physically challenged people as well as creating relaxation tapes for her own personal use. She speculated that custom relaxation music and guided meditations aimed at those afflicted with Schizophrenia might be useful.