Richard Jermy Gwyn

Passed Away in 2020

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Décès en 2020

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Obituary - Avis de décès

Richard Jermy Gwyn

1934  -  2020 

GWYN, O.C., RICHARD JERMY 1934 - 2020 Passed away August 15, 2020 in Toronto after stoically enduring a long siege with Alzheimer's.

Lovingly remembered by his wife, Carol Bishop Gwyn. Predeceased by his parents Philip Jermy Gwyn and Elizabeth (Betty) (nee Tilley) and his wife of 42 years, Sandra Gwyn (nee Fraser). Survived by his sister, Susannah (Sue) Rooney and his five nephews John, Julian, Ben (Jenny), Toby (Grainne) and Daniel (Dtang) along with ten great-nieces and nephews including his goddaughter India Rooney, sister-in-law Danielle Fraser (Nick), brother-in-law A.R. (Rory) Harley (Jane) and step-son Joshua McIvor (Frances) and grandchildren Penelope and Edward. Also survived by countless Gwyn cousins including Julian, Hugh, Rosemary and Mary-Caroline.


Born into a military family at Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk on May 26, 1934, Richard spent his early childhood living in Shanghai and India. He attended the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in Lancaster, England followed by Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Seeking adventure Richard teamed up with a school-chum to visit Canada in the early 1950s and worked in a variety of jobs, perhaps most notably a spell in Newfoundland as door-to-door salesmen, selling a Catholic magazine. Both Richard and his friend met girls working at the Halifax information bureau and both went on to marry their Canadian sweethearts.


Richard and Alexandra (Sandra) Fraser wed in 1958, enjoyed 42 years together and a creative literary partnership. Once attached firmly to Canada, Richard launched a journalism career.


For the period 1968 to 1973, he was Executive Assistant to the federal Communications Minister the Hon. Eric Kierans and later a Director-General in that department. Returning to his true calling, he rose to the top of journalism. In 1973 he was assigned to The Toronto Star Ottawa's National Press Gallery and from 1985 to 1992 posted to London, England as The Star's foreign correspondent. Beyond his success in newspapers, Richard was widely recognized as a political commentator on radio and tv and had seven books published including biographies of Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood, the Unlikely Revolutionary and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, The Northern Magus. His study of post-modern Canada Nationalism Without Walls: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian was cited by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the country's 100 most-important books.


Richard dedicated his early retirement years to writing an award-winning two-volume biography of Sir John A Macdonald of whose track record he approved; he'd have taken exception to recent negative judgements about Canada's first prime minister. A thoroughly old-fashioned English man with a dry, witty sense of humour, Richard enjoyed the company of his good friends and family and was generous in encouraging and mentoring young people. It tickled him to note that although he never attended university, he held five honourary degrees. From 2002 to 2007 Richard was Chancellor of St. Jerome University, Waterloo. Having owned a salt-box house in Eastport, Newfoundland since 1974, Richard built a large community of dear friends there. In particular, NL's literary community appreciates his founding of The Winterset Award, an annual literary prize in honour of his Newfoundland-born wife, Sandra as well as the co-founding of Eastport's annual Winterset in Summer Literary Festival. Cremation followed by a private service has been held. A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Donations in memory of Richard requested for L'Arche Canada Foundation or Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.


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