Nov 19, 2019
In a town of just over 12,000 people, Lisa Dalpe was a fixture of the Paris, ON, community and a person that everyone knew. Whether she was at the small-town corner store she owned with her father or at a rink watching her sons play hockey, Lisa had a big personality and spread positivity and kindness to those around her.
According to her middle son, Cleveland Monsters co-captain Zac Dalpe, Lisa was quite simply a loving, Canadian hockey mom who prepared meals before trekking the kids around, was the backbone of their family and unofficial mayor of the town.
“The mayor of Paris once told me, ‘Thank God your mom did not run for mayor because I would have been out a job a long time ago,’” said Zac. “You hear that little saying, ‘They know everyone five minutes after walking into a room,’ and that is actually what my mom would do. I had people tell me that they stopped in the store and she ended up helping them through a breakup. That was her. She was the best.”
In April of 2015 after suffering from bronchitis, Lisa and the Dalpe family were told the news that she had a rare form of kidney cancer that had metastasized to other organs in her body progressing her case to Stage IV.
“They caught it so late,” said Zac. “We tried a lot of things like stem cell trials. Looking back now, I don’t even know everything we tried… We were just so desperate.”
Despite the struggles Lisa was going through, she remained a rock for Zac, his brothers Phil and Ben, and their father Paul until the very end. The Dalpe matriarch encouraged the family to continue living their lives to the fullest, especially since she was not able to do so.
One of the hardest parts for Zac, who was 25 years old at the time, was Lisa encouraging him to head to training camp at the start of the 2015-16 season, continuing to stress how proud she was of her entire family.
After a strong but all too quick fight, Lisa passed away on September 15, 2015 at the age of 51.
“I am reminded of her all the time now. I get reminded when I think of what [temperature] I have to set the oven or [when I’m] doing laundry. I would always call her for those things that, to me, were the quintessential important part of her and her figure as a mom,” explained Zac. “You miss those parts. [At the same time,] a lot of people think we get our grit and fire from our dad, but it is probably just as much from her. She was definitely a pitbull.”
The Dalpe family dynamic had to shift in order to adapt for the loss of their matriarch, but Lisa’s presence has been something that will never fade. Through things like pictures and stories, Lisa’s memory is passed on to the people that did not get a chance to meet her, including Zac and his wife Cassandra’s sons, two-and-a-half-year-old Brooks and four-month-old Beau.
“My dad has a picture with my mom at the house and somehow Brooks just knew and said, ‘That’s Grandma Dalpe’,” recalled Zac. “Another time we were laying on the trampoline one day looking at the sky and he said, ‘That’s Grandma Dalpe up there. I miss you’. I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ because you just don’t know what the afterlife is like.”
On June 15, 2018, Lisa’s presence in the Paris community was cemented in the form of a walkway through downtown called “Lisa’s Way”. Stretching from the town’s municipal customer service office to the local bank, the walkway represents Lisa’s ability to bring people together and the significant impact she made in the downtown area.
Zac and Cassandra also plan to share Lisa’s memory with their kids through the mantra by which the Dalpe family has always lived their lives: Family is everything and will always come first. It was because Lisa and Paul’s teaching of this principle during their kids’ upbringing that the Dalpes were able to grow stronger through their loss and continued to seek the positives.
“I cannot stress enough how important my parents were. I really feel like I was the luckiest guy in the world,” said Zac. “They taught ‘No matter what happens, you have your family and then you can start living from there.’ Now my mom is not around and it [was a shift], but I tell my dad all the time they were, and continue to be, the two most important people in my life.”
Just over four years after his loss, Zac has started to become more comfortable with sharing his mother’s story and his own experience regarding the ways in which cancer affected their lives. With the support of Hockey Fights Cancer™, the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League, Zac along with many other players are given the opportunity to help others through their platform.
For the players, help can range from listening to the stories of those affected all the way to engaging with local communities to raise funds like Zac’s teammate Doyle Somerby does through his own cancer initiatives. No matter what the case may be, Zac was quick to point out that moments through Hockey Fights Cancer™ can be therapeutic for the players but it also gives the world a chance to see the athletes as more than just a statistic or a stranger competing on game nights.
“I think people can sometimes forget we are more than just the players on the ice, so when Doyle, or any team, does something to help the community it really sheds a light on who we are as people,” said Zac. “[Hockey players] will all go the extra mile on the road to help anyone out. The wound of losing my mom may still be fresh for me, but if I can tell my story and it could help somebody out, that’s great.”