WINNIPEG, Man. – The trucking industry lost one of its pioneers July 7, but more importantly, the world lost a man who dedicated his life to helping others.
A philanthropist who donated to several causes over the years, Paul Albrechtsen was 88 years old when he passed.
Trucking was seemingly always in the cards for Albrechtsen since immigrating to Canada from Denmark in 1954, and he knew how to play the hand he was dealt.
Having completed his apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic before departing for Canada, Albrechtsen arrived on the shores of Halifax, where he hopped on a train heading west to Winnipeg. He found employment in Virden, Man., as a mechanic, which was the launch of a lengthy career in trucking.
Albrechtsen’s skill as a mechanic was the catalyst that helped a young, eager entrepreneur get noticed during his early years in the industry by an oil company executive. While in Virden, Albrechtsen sent the oil worker for coffee after the executive had cut a hole in the radiator of his truck. With the parts to fix his truck only available in Toronto, Albrechtsen was able to repair the radiator well enough to enable the man to continue his duties and head home. The executive was so impressed by Albrechtsen’s handy work that he offered him a job on the spot.
It was then that Albrechtsen purchased a truck and hauled water to the drilling rigs, all while continuing his obligations as a mechanic.
To balance all of his responsibilities, Albrechtsen slept in his tool shack so he could take care of the rigs, haul water, and repair trucks.
This hard-working spirit was evident long before coming to Canada. In his home country, Albrechtsen used to raise rabbits for food during the Second World War. He would also fix up old motorcycles to sell while attending school and learning his trade.
In addition to the many who will miss Albrechtsen, he leaves behind a successful Manitoba trucking company that will also miss his leadership – Paul’s Hauling, which he established in 1957.
After only two years in business, the carrier boasted a fleet of eight trucks, hauling crude oil and salt water for the petroleum industry.
Located first in Brandon, Man., Paul’s Hauling moved to Winnipeg in 1961, where a terminal was constructed on the Oak Point Highway. Today, the company also has locations in Saskatchewan and Ontario.
Even for those who did not know him well, Albrechtsen made an impression in the trucking industry.
“I can suggest that Paul’s legacy is broad, lengthy, and ongoing,” said Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA).
Paul’s Hauling has been a member of the MTA for decades, and in 2014 was named the Omnitracs/MTA Distinguished Member.
Albrechtsen’s son, John Erik, is the current MTA president and sits on the Canadian Trucking Association’s board and executive branch.
For all of Albrechtsen’s achievements in the trucking industry, it pales in comparison to what he had done to help others throughout the course of his life.
Donating millions of dollars to numerous charities and organizations over the years, those that reaped the benefit of his kindness included the Health Sciences Centre, Cancer Care Manitoba, The Reh-Fit Centre, Riverview Health Centre, and St. Boniface Hospital.
“Mr. Albrechtsen was a visionary donor and a special friend to the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation,” said Jessica Miller, director of communications for the foundation. “His generosity transformed cardiac research and care at St. Boniface Hospital.”
In 2015, Albrechtsen donated $5 million to the hospital, which established the Paul Albrechtsen Cardiac Research Fund. That same year, the hospital renamed its research center the Albrechtsen Research Centre.
In all, Albrechtsen donated $7 million to the hospital foundation.
Albrechtsen’s impact does not stop there.
The Paul Albrechtsen Scholarship Fund allots more than $905,000 to be awarded to the families of Paul’s Hauling employees for their children to pursue post-secondary education. In total, 339 annual scholarships have been issued since the program’s inception 15 years ago. Employees contribute to the fund every month, along with what Albrechtsen donated annually.
Albrechtsen was known as a people person. As his family stated in his obituary, he “loved to talk to anyone interesting from all walks of life and he had a great sense of humor, including the ability to laugh at himself.”
Adding to his many accolades, Albrechtsen was named to the Order of Canada in 2017.
Married twice, Albrechtsen had four children – John Erik, Leanne, Christopher, and Robert – with his first wife, Peggy Anderson, who he wed in 1956. Having established Paul’s Hauling, he eventually moved his company and family from Brandon to Winnipeg.
He married his second wife, Mary Lou Ranson, in 1981 and had two children, Scott and David.
There was a celebration of Albrechtsen’s life at the sizable RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg, an indication of just how many people the trucking pioneer and philanthropist influenced during his career.
As his family says, “He leaves behind an enormous circle of family and friends who will miss his presence immensely.”
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