Don Howe, a founding partner, has dedicated much of his life to improving the lives of others. The following is an article written in May of 1992 and demonstrates some of the actions Howe took in order to help those who never had obtained insurance. As a result, many people finally gained access to health services that were not accessible otherwise. Read more on some of the great work Howe has done for Manitoban communities.
(Don Howe on left as Winnipeg South DSD representative)
"Now here’s a real fishing story that would make TV’s fishing guru Red Fisher of Skuttlebutt Lodge take notice.
Our story begins on the jagged shoreline of Lake Winnipeg. Not quite halfway up from Winnipeg – past Loon Straits, Little Bullhead and Moose Island – is Matheson Island, population 121.
It’s not easy to get to Matheson Island, just ask Winnipeg South’s Don Howe and Ed Melna, representative, Winnipeg Employee Benefits. Getting there was just half the adventure. And by the way, the trip marked the very first sale for Ed.
Don, a 15-year veteran of London Life and a top producer of employee benefits business, worked with Ed to put together a benefits plan for the fishing co-operative on the island, covering two-thirds of the population.
“They never had any benefits,” says Don. “They didn’t make a lot of money and had fairly large families. Most of these people never owned life insurance and probably had never been to a dentist.”
The members of the co-op were interested in a benefits plan, but no one seemed anxious to make the trip.
Remote areas want services too
When Don learned of the co-op’s need from another client, he jumped at the opportunity. It wasn’t an easy sale.
“At first, the director of the co-op was very hesitant about meeting us, and getting contact names proved to be difficult. Then suddenly on day they called us, giving us less than four hours to get there,” Don says.
Adds Ed: ”Our initial trip was by car. It was a three-hour drive straight north from Winnipeg, the last hour on a dirt road. Then we took a ferry across Lake Winnipeg to Matheson Island.
“I was not surprised no other company had made the trip, and it helped us make the sale. The plan included life, health, dental and vision benefits.”
Their third trip was more unusual. They drove to Lac-du-Bonnet, near the southern tip of Lake Winnipeg, then flew the rest of the way in Don’s pontoon-equipped, single-engine Cessna airplane. Don earned his pilot’s license in 1979 and bought the plane the next year.
“When we landed at the Matheson Island dock, we felt like visiting dignitaries. A group of fishermen met us at the dock and drove us to the administrator’s house by limo - a beat-up old pickup!”
Breaking the ice to make the sale
“We signed the master applications, got a cheque, had lunch, bought 30 pounds of pickerel fillets and flew home.”
That wasn’t the end of their adventures in the heart of Manitoba. They placed the issue this winter, driving across the frozen waters of Lake Winnipeg.
“After we got to the island, we found out that a truck had gone through the ice just two days earlier,” says Ed. “So on the way home, we just held our breaths and hoped we didn’t meet with the same fate.”
In spite of the difficulties of making the sale, Don sees potential for future business.
“We have a good relationship with these people, and the next step is a group RRSP and individual life insurance. I really enjoy working in rural communities. It’s an easier pace and the people are very friendly.”
As for Ed, he says “Not only was going to the island a great way to start my career, but so was working with someone of Don’s caliber. We heard a lot about him in Group school and, working with him, I can understand why. It takes a special rep to do what he did for the sale. It was a real adventure for me, but he’s unbelievable!”"
Carter, B. (Ed.). (1992, May). Don and Ed's Excellent Adventure! PACE published by London Life.