by Jessica Newman, The Word Wiz
For 100 years, A.R. Menzies & Sons Ltd. has been helping people navigate the challenges associated with missing limbs and other mobility limitations. The first step is often the hardest, which is why the team at A.R. Menzies always takes care to prioritize the patient experience.
Whether someone was born with a limb difference or they’ve had an amputation later in life, no two people’s situations are the same. Similarly, every prosthetic limb A.R. Menzies makes is as unique as the people who wear them. Since the goals and range of activities are always different, a prosthetist’s #1 goal is understanding their patient’s lifestyle so they can design a custom prosthetic device so they can rebuild their life and independence.
This patient-centric approach has helped the company form meaningful relationships, and A.R. Menzies is now the oldest continually-run family prosthetic business in North America—and certainly one of the oldest businesses in New Brunswick. It remains proudly independent after all these years.
100 Years of Helping Patients Get Back on Their Feet
From hand-carved wooden sockets wrapped in rawhide to “smart legs” with computer-assisted knee units, sensors and Bluetooth technology, a lot has changed over the course of a century for A.R. Menzies and their patients.
When A.R. Menzies first opened their doors, prosthetic fittings took up to a week to fabricate. People often had to travel long distances for their fitting, so the Menzies family welcomed traveling patients into their home.
Today, they no longer need to board patients because they can complete a fitting in a matter of hours. They don’t manufacture artificial limbs in a garage where the family cow was also kept. And they don’t accept payment in barrels of potatoes, apples or peaches anymore either.
While the clinic has seen a lot of change throughout its 100 years of operation, some things remain the same, including A.R. Menzies’ compassion, accurate measurements and the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into making each and every prosthesis and orthosis.
A Family Affair: Three Generations Strong
“This has always been a passion for me. It was instilled in me at a young age,” says Allan Menzies, the founder’s grandson and current president, remembering the old days of sweeping floors and cleaning the potbellied stove. Like his dad, Laurie, and his uncle, Norris, Allan followed in his father’s footsteps as a prosthetist—and the rest is history in the making.
For 44 years, Allan and his father worked side by side, sharing an office in what was once an army hut moved from across the street in the 1950s. The founder’s artificial leg still rests in the corner, a reminder of what started it all: an accident with an ax in the middle of New Brunswick’s woodlands. Allan’s grandfather, Allan Ronald Menzies, lost his leg, then established A.R. Menzies in 1920, where he worked until the day he died of a heart attack in 1943.
People are often asked ‘if you could meet one person dead or alive, who would it be?’ Without hesitation, I answer granddad!”
A.R. Menzies has been blessed with many passionate and long-serving family and employees. Allan’s mother, Miriam, was their registered nurse; Allan’s sister, Cindy, ran the hearing aid division; his cousin, Jane, worked administration; his brother-in-law, Wayne, oversaw maintenance; his aunt Wilma (Norris’s wife) worked reception and was their bookkeeper. Today, Allan’s daughter, Heather, has assumed the role of her late mother, Debi, as office manager, and Allan’s wife, Bridget, also works at the clinic.
The A.R. Menzies Personal Touch
Just as prosthetics change as technology advances, patients’ bodies change over time—as people age and muscles atrophy. Because of this, A.R. Menzies often develops lifelong relationships with their patients.
“Our patients are family,” says Allan. “They still travel to see us and we’re on a first name basis. We’ve developed a strong rapport.” One of their most loyal patients, Jerry McFarland, has been coming to A.R. Menzies after he fell off a farming wagon and lost his leg in 1943. His first prosthesis was fit by Allan’s grandfather.
After all these years, patients still put their trust in A.R. Menzies, sharing emotional, often life-changing moments. “People think it’s the end of their life when they lose a limb,” says Heather. “They’re depressed. Their partners and family are stressed. It’s amazing to see the difference once we help them get back on their feet again.”
She adds that the profession provides incredible perspective. “You think you’re having a bad day, then in walks someone with only one leg or arm,” she says. “The determination and resourcefulness of our patients is inspiring.”
A Century of Fond Memories
A.R. Menzies has prospered for 100 years and counting thanks to being surrounded by family, patients and a supportive community that wholeheartedly believes in this important work. Their history is dotted with long-lasting achievements, stories and memories. “I know Dad would agree that working on Terry Fox’s prostheses was a definite highlight of our career,” says Allan. The memories and stories the Menzies family have created with their patients and staff while building their successful business will live on forever.