22 March 1933 – 19 May 2018

The unstoppable John came to a mountain that he could not scale, when he lost his battle with a rare and fierce form of leukemia. He died while being comforted in the embrace of his beloved sons, daughter-in-law and wife. John left us poorer for his absence but richer for the experience of his presence in our lives.

Born in Brandon, Manitoba, as the second youngest of a brood of six: George, Mina, Walter, Hazel and Peggy, John was strengthened by facing adversity early in life. Having contracted polio at age five, he eventually regained good health with a rehabilitation that included his ailing father pushing  him as he skated while holding on to the back of chair. A graduate of Mt. Allison University (BA Theology), and Queen’s (MA Theology and Psychology) he was acknowledged later in his career with an Honorary PhD in Theology from Queen’s University.  As a young United Church minister in Oyen, Alberta, he conducted four services every Sunday in small prairie towns.  John loved that life but moved to Toronto in 1964 establishing, in Cabbagetown, the first, non-congregational, community outreach  Ministry in the United Church; The Christian Resource Centre (CRC) .  It was groundbreaking and continues to provide social policy advocacy, dignified self-help housing, and support for members of an often-disenfranchised community. He was an excellent team player and builder who worked with many like-minded people to improve the social conditions in downtown Toronto.  His community development model has been replicated across Canada because it works well and enables program recipients to maintain their wellbeing and dignity.

Along the way, John was Chaplain of Victoria University, University of Toronto, which meant he was able to support and counsel students and faculty. This led to administering many weddings during the summer; thus making his wife a ‘Professional Wedding Guest’. A kind and generous man, he served on several boards of directors including: The national board of the Canadian Housing Renewal Association (CHRA); Habitat for Humanity; As president of Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association (ONPHA); As president of Metro Toronto Housing Corporation (MTHC), while providing development leadership to the United Church and stabilizing funding for Outreach.

He was 85 years of age when he died. John commuted by train to his office in downtown Toronto until recently. Because he loved his work, he never considered retirement. John’s successful work life was balanced by a wide range of interests. He was proficient in several sporting activities, while also enjoying travel, culinary and cultural experiences, and carefully observing politics at every level. He cherished family life and enjoyed sharing experiences with friends in the city and the country. John had a remarkable ability to communicate comfortably with people of all ages and circumstances.

His only profound regret was leaving his beloveds: wife Gayle, children Michael (Radana), Megan Louise, Alex (Laura) and stepson Jay; grandchildren Patrick (Gosia), Laura, Bradley Harman, Emily and Joshua Metson, William and Julianna Metson, and Joshua Perks, his sisters and brother-in-law and his nieces and nephews.  He loved us all so deeply, as we did him.

A remarkable man, he left his grace upon all who were fortunate enough to know him. John’s family members extend their appreciation and gratitude to the many health professionals and caregivers who cared for and sustained him through health challenges in the weeks preceding his death.

Celebration of Life service is on Thursday, May 31 at 11:00 am at Trinity United Church, 284 Division St. Cobourg, reception to follow in the church hall. There will be a public Memorial in Toronto in September, with the date and location to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to: Toronto CRC, 40 Oak Street, Toronto M5A 2C6 and/or Northumberland Hills Hospital Foundation, 1000 DePalma Drive, Cobourg K9A 5W6. Condolences received at www.MacCoubrey.com.

“To live in hearts of those we love is never to die” (Hazel Gaynor)

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Filed Under: Cobourg, Ontario, Toronto

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