Walter Harris Callow, 1896 – 1958

Determination and Selfless Dedication

It is difficult to imagine a better example of determination and selfless dedication than what we see in the life of Walter Callow.

When the First World War came along, the Parrsboro-born young man enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps' Canadian (RFC) training program. The RFC was a British unit formed to give its side a military presence in the air. While training in Ontario, Walter crashed in a test flight in 1918. He survived, but ended up with a serious back injury and a heart condition.

Walter returned to Nova Scotia, where he operated a lumber business in Advocate. In 1931, however, his earlier injuries made him bed-ridden. That same year, his wife and mother both died, leaving him alone to look after his young child. Walter turned to selling real-estate to make a living. His health, however, deteriorated. By 1937 he became (for the rest of his life) a full-time resident of the Camp Hill Hospital in Halifax. Two years later he was blind and quadriplegic.

Hard to believe, yet that is not the end of Walter's story. After the Second World War began in 1939 Walter decided to establish a service for soldiers who were overseas. He established the Callow Cigarette Fund, with staff he supervised, sending cigarettes to soldiers over-seas. After the war, with revenue from the cigarette fund, Walter came up with a fresh idea. He wanted to develop a specially-designed accessibility bus for disabled veterans and anyone else who used a wheelchair. As he envisioned it, the vehicle would take those in need out to the countryside, to sporting events or other activities. Callow had two custom-made buses built in Pubnico, then turned to major automobile manufacturers to build his wheelchair coaches.

Walter Callow Wheelchair Buses still exist today, and still do exactly what their creator wanted. The only time that Walter rode on the bus was when his body was returned to Advocate for burial, after a funeral in Halifax that featured full military honours.