The means to fight

Michael Halls, whose historic $5-million gift boosted the fight against ALS, loses his long personal battle with the disease.

KELLY PEDRO, Free Press Reporter 2022-02-27 03:18:23

The Londoner who made history four years ago with the largest-ever gift for ALS research in Canada died yesterday. Michael Halls wanted his $5-million donation to London researchers to make a difference, said Dr. Michael Strong, the neurologist who heads the ALS clinic at London Health Sciences Centre.

"He was possibly the most unassuming person you'd ever meet," Strong said yesterday.

Halls died in the palliative care unit at St. Joseph's Health Care. He was 63.

The Toronto native made his money in the insurance business while living in B.C. for 25 years.

Halls was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in December 1997. The fatal neuromuscular disease is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease

Halls moved to London a year after he was diagnosed to be closer to his family.

He joined ALS support groups and sat on a provincial executive board for ALS.

At the ALS clinic for a routine checkup with Strong, Halls revealed his plan to donate $5 million.

"You could've blown me over with a feather," Strong recalled.

The 2001 gift put a spotlight on the disease affecting 3,000 Canadians.

"I want this to be my legacy," Halls said in announcing his donation. "This is an insidious, deadly disease. The more public awareness there is, the more people are going to contribute to finding a cure."

Halls's gift created the Michael Halls Centre for ALS Research and the Arthur J. Hudson Chair in ALS Research to support senior researchers and technicians.

The money funds ALS research at the Robarts Research Institute and the Lawson Health Research Institute, LHSC's research arm.

"He knew we wouldn't have a cure tomorrow, but he knew we needed to put that framework in place," Strong said.

Halls never complained about his illness, said his brother, Chris. "He didn't hide behind his disease. He just ignored it."

Halls golfed until two years ago. Despite being fed with a feeding tube for the last four years, he continued to walk and explore London neighbourhoods.

"He loved to play cribbage and take everybody's money," Chris said.

Though he had money, Halls was pragmatic and simple about life, Chris said.

"On a trip, he'd bunk into a Motel 6 and I'd bunk into a Ritz Carlton."

Halls, who is survived by a son, three grandchildren and two brothers, delivered Meals on Wheels in his red Mercedes 550 SL convertible until a couple of years ago.

Copyright The London Free Press


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