Remembering Ian Murray

Ian Murray (July 1, 1943 — April 26, 2024).

Ian William Murray; survived by sister Janet and brother Leith; Randi Kennedy, Sally Bowen, Leah Murray (Walker Murray), Jacob Murray (Rachel Hawkshaw), and Kyle Murray (Kayleigh Graham); Grandchildren: Nathan and Michael Murray.

A man of two islands.

Born on a farm in PEI, July 1, 1943.

1950s: Ian’s father is ailing from rheumatoid arthritis, so the family moves to his uncle’s farm in Ontario where they can get better medical help.

1960s: Ian studies engineering and plays rugby at the University of Guelph, gaining his P.Eng. He then works in Toronto where he meets and marries Randi. They move to Kingston for a job at MTO where Ian helps design overpasses on the 400 series highways.

Randi gets a job teaching on Amherst Island, so they moved here, living in the Presbyterian Manse. An island friend introduces them to several Vietnam War draft-dodgers and hippie-types who will play a major role in shaping the next 50-plus years.

When Randi becomes pregnant with daughter Leah, they start a commune so that their child is raised in a community environment, setting down roots on Amherst.

January 1972: “The hippies” purchase and move to an abandoned farm with three other people creating Amherst Island Organic Farms, later Topsy Farms.

When the commune breaks up a few years later, those who remain — Chris Kennedy, Don Tubb, Randi, and Ian — work hard to pay back all the former members for their labour contributions. Don and Chris (and Dianne Marshall) work together successfully for decades as friends and business partners.

Ian works as an engineer at the test track for Canadair, while farming and keeping the books after dark.

Ian and Randi split up and have remained friends ever since.

1979: Ian meets a Toronto redhead named Sally Bowen. The two fall in love and marry on the Island. His first son Jacob is born in August 1981 followed by Kyle in November 1983.

The family enjoys camping at the west end of Amherst Island and taking trips to Lake Simcoe, Virgina, and PEI.

He restarts The Beacon, the Island newspaper, and edits it for about 35 years.

Ian runs for election as a Federal Libertarian in the early 80s, feeling there is too much government spending, and someone needs to raise an objection; as you may imagine, this attempt is not successful, but it does spur a general interest in politics.

As members of ‘the press,’ Ian and Don cover the Island Council meetings. Ian runs for a seat and is elected as a councillor, and then later as Reeve for a term. He is considered by many as having done an outstanding job. Ian serves on Council for a further four years, supporting his successor. While Reeve, Ian sits on the Board of the Children’s Aid Society and the newly formed Interval House in Napanee.

With a government grant, he hires three young people to collect oral history on the Island, which results in a doctoral thesis and a book written about those who emigrated here.

A Fighter: In the 1990s, it is discovered that a local doctor defrauded OHIP, falsifying ailments of many Islanders (one of them Ian). Once the charges are proven, Ian asks to have his OHIP records corrected. The government refuses. There follows a prolonged battle that is finally settled in Ian’s favour by the provincial ombudsman creating a legal precedent for all Ontarians. “Are you proud”? A reporter asks. Ian responds: “No, I was just being a citizen.”

While Reeve, Ian ensures that ferry workers and other municipal employees have their salaries adjusted to be on par with provincial standards. Later, he successfully fights a move to reduce the ferry crew size, which would create danger in an emergency.

A visionary: Ian starts the Wool Shed at Topsy, enabling the farm to build a side business with wool that is otherwise going to waste. Topsy has an early online store with the ability to process digital payments during a time when many people didn’t yet have email.

Protective: Ian ensures the Island is connected to the new 911 emergency system, by supporting the First Response Team. He enables the Island Fire Department to participate in the mutual aid agreement with other townships by upgrading the fire equipment. He also served as a firefighter for 12 years.

Loving: Ian’s greatest joy in life is his grandchildren, especially in their earliest years: watching Nathan get a wheeled vehicle unstuck from the mud or taking little Michael on a fencing trip.

Ian’s biggest contribution to the world is the lives he has touched. This is demonstrated by a whole binder full of letters the family receives when Ian’s terminal cancer diagnosis is announced.  

Ian and Sally create a safe, welcoming place for Jacob, Kyle, and Leah to host their friends (especially during the teenage years). There are a few simple rules: no drunk driving, no unplanned pregnancies, and no burning down the barn.

A lover of music, poetry, and literature: Ian leaves an extensive library of books (both physical and audio). A stoic, steady presence who loved to work; to do a job properly; and teach by example. A man who would run across the yard while singing to himself.

Last Friday (April 26, 2024), Ian died at home surrounded by family and friends – we are grateful to all his medical care team; we couldn’t have brought him back to the farm without you. He passes with grace, humour, and courage. His last words: “I love you all.”

A Celebration of Life will be held in Ian’s memory this Friday (May 3, 2024) at The Lodge on Amherst Island between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. No sombre clothing please – only joyous remembrance of a good man who showed up and did his part.

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