Richard Huber had it all. He owned five homes, two apartment buildings, a restaurant, and he drove Porsches.
It wasn’t until 1986, when the Winnipeg-born entrepreneur met his future wife — a violent alcoholic, though he didn’t know that then — that his successful lifestyle began to crumble.
“It was an abnormal situation,” said Huber, who now lives in an Esquimalt basement suite.
Huber, 64, worked as national sales manager for Inter Collegiate Press, the Canadian scholastic publishing company later bought out by Herff Jones. He also ran two businesses in Winnipeg before accepting an offer to relocate to Edmonton. His territory stretched from Red Deer, Alta., into northern B.C., earning him $1.6 million over the course of his career.
“I lived on airplanes,” said Huber, noting he had no experience with alcoholics but found support through Al-Anon.
“I’d come home and we’d go out for dinner and after a glass of wine she’d be staggering. I didn’t realize that she’d been drinking all day,” he said, recalling episodes of physical and emotional abuse.
Things worsened when his wife became addicted to prescription drugs, was arrested for shoplifting and impaired driving and, while “crazy drunk,” impulsively fled home to Minnesota with criminal charges pending.
“I had just built a new home, this Taj Mahal for her, and she broke my heart,” said Huber, describing his decision to take her back as “the biggest mistake of my life.”
The nadir was the day he returned to their posh home to discover her in their bed with a guy she met in AA. She had also drained $80,000 from his credit lines.
Being abused by a violent spouse wasn’t easy to admit, he said.
“Most men don’t talk about that. Most people assume the man’s the violent one.”
A friend described his ordeal as the stuff of a movie — a cross between Fatal Attraction and Casino.
Huber, who also sank a fortune into a Swensen ice cream shop franchise in Alberta, moved in the summer of 1996 to Vancouver, where he cashed in the last of his RSPs to go into partnership on an ill-fated business venture. By 2002, virtually penniless, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and living on the street.
Nine years ago, after having Christmas dinner with his sister in Victoria, he decided to move here with her support.
“I slowly recovered and when I felt better, I worked again,” he said, recalling his stints working in international customer service at West Corp., the Keating Cross Road call centre.
Since the company had a great dental plan, he took advice from a doctor who suggested he get his teeth replaced.
He underwent a surgical procedure to remove his old teeth but, while waiting for his dentures, West Corp. went out of business.
“I went around for two years with no teeth,” Huber recalled. “I had PTSD, no teeth and no self-worth. And you can’t get a job because you look stupid.”
Huber, also arthritic, later received a disability allowance and, through the Cool Aid Society, finally got new teeth.
Although he’s on medication for PTSD and depression, Huber — who now gets by on $900 a month — said he is content with his life and grateful for the social services offered in Victoria.
“I look at my life in a whole different way now,” he said. “I’ve done so many things and achieved so-called success in the business world, and now I’ve seen the other side of life — the have-nots’ side.”
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