CANON JOHN EDWARD SPEERS
Born in Aneroid, Saskatchewan, John was the son of the late Harry Speers and Florence McLauchlin. A prairie boy, he graduated from Moose Jaw Central Collegiate and taught school in Lloydminster, SK, before moving east to attend the University of Toronto. He graduated from Victoria College in 1945 with an Honours BA and Gold Medal in English, and as a grad student lectured in English at Victoria and at United College, Winnipeg, where he was also Dean of Men.
In 1950 he was called to the Anglican ministry and left academia for the church, graduating from Trinity College with four prizes in theology. Ordained to the priesthood May 3, 1953, John embraced parish ministry and served with his wife Gwyn at parishes in Sutton, Aurora, Toronto, and Barrie, all in the Toronto Diocese. After retirement in 1985, he assisted regularly in two Barrie parishes and taught numerous workshops, most notably on Celtic Spirituality. Apart from holidays, John preached steadily from age 18 to 95, and led ten parish missions.
Canon John was for many years Speaker at Camp Koinonia, tour host with Gwyn on pilgrimages to Israel and the Bible lands and the Oberammergau Passion Play, and Prophet-in- Residence at Willowbank, Bermuda. A lifelong avid gardener, he was known for the beauty of his award-winning rectory gardens and for his monthly horticultural column. A natural musician, he played piano until his final weeks. He was a poet, genealogist, and author, publishing his last book, Florrie, in 2011. In his own words, he “never wasted much time.” A gifted preacher, compelling teacher, compassionate pastor and devoted friend, John touched the lives of thousands in his lifetime.
Canon John is survived by his daughters Shelagh Speers of Cold Spring and Maureen Doherty of Rankin Inlet; his son Michael Speers of Barrie; his sons-in law Gregory Gunder and Bryon Doherty; and his grandchildren Sean, Brendan and Liam Doherty and Laura Gunder. He was predeceased by his beloved wife of 57 years, Gwyneth (Smith), in 2008, his son Kevin in 1962, and his brother Clarence (Curly) in 1944. His sisters Dorothy Pearson and Millie Rowlinson and his brother George survive him, as well as loving nieces, nephews and cousins.
The funeral was held Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at Trinity Anglican Church, Barrie, Ontario. Donations may be made in Canon John’s memory to Hospice Simcoe or the Leprosy Mission International.