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Flowers Death Notices Flowers

Murray, David R.

MURRAY, David Robert
March 21, 1940 - October 7, 2020

It was a short illness after long years with chronic leukemia. David Murray died peacefully with his family around him. A larger, loving army of family and friends mourn a fulfilled life lost.

For 57 years his wife Ann (nee Stockwell), was his lodestone and he was utterly devoted to her. His children – Heather, Rob and Deb – were his pride. He was besotted by his five grandchildren – Emily, Owen, Anya, Oliver and Sidney. He doted from afar on his younger brother Don. His family were a golden circle and he loved and attended to all of them. He offered reason and encouragement in the room or on the phone throughout his life to the young and the old.

He was educated first at Bishop’s University, then, with a Commonwealth scholarship, at the University of Edinburgh, and finally at Cambridge University where he earned a PhD. His thesis on ending the slave trade in Cuba was published by Cambridge University Press with the title Odious Commerce. Moving to Guelph in 1967, he began as an historian at the University of Guelph. His lengthy and notable academic career took him from the explosions of Latin American history to the labyrinths of Canadian legal history, social history and foreign policy. He published prodigiously, with five books and a mountain of papers under his name. He was a skilled administrator, serving as Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Guelph for 12 years. He became University Professor Emeritus in 2007 and continued to teach and mentor students well into his retirement years.

He remained intellectually eager, consuming non-fiction books as fuel for his sharp observations, as well as the occasional British mystery for pleasure. In later years, his appetite for books was matched only by his pleasure in sports. As an amateur and extremely enthusiastic golfer and curler, his delight in his weekly exploits on the greens and the ice was joyously shared with friends and family. He would be pleased that his golfing career concluded with a 40-foot putt last week from off the green, for a birdie.

He carried his illness lightly, in the manner of a true stoic, and to the end he remained amused by the quirks of life. In a note to his brother just days before his death there was a paragraph about how Ann was taking care of affairs great and small as she had for the past months and probably for long before that. And then this delightful sentence: “I on the other hand go about my days in blissful ignorance both about Covid and, I suspect, much else.” Quite ironic and quite inaccurate factually, but emotionally true. He was a man who knew his priorities, set out to live them, and succeeded. He built a house of laughter and love and that love was reciprocated by his family, by his friends and by those he mentored.

The void left behind by his absence is unfathomable. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in David’s memory may be directed to the University of Guelph towards the David Murray Medal in Arts or the Murray-Snell Ontario Graduate Scholarship, or to the Church of The Apostles (St. James & St. Mattias). Arrangements entrusted to the WALL-CUSTANCE FUNERAL HOME & CHAPEL, 519-822-0051 or

A tree will be planted in memory of David R. Murray in the Wall-Custance Memorial Forest.

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