Read brief obituary in CH Feb 2nd.
Knew Garth well in 1955-57 at Mount Alison University.
Sincere,y, Mac Bennett
Garth Irving Mundle
April 30, 1935 – January 28, 2019
On Monday, January 28th, Garth journeyed from this life. He died in Ottawa after suffering a stroke.
Garth grew up in the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia. He was the eldest of three children born to Stanley Mundle and Alice (Coulter) Mundle . Alice had been a teacher; Stan was in the oil delivery business, and later bought the property that is still the family farm. Garth and Eldon, two years apart, grew up together, and then much later, along came Carolyn. In his teen years Garth was active in the church youth group, and when the group would lead worship, Garth was often the preacher. For one or two summers, prior to the first Pugwash Peace Conference in 1957, he worked at Cyrus Eaton’s Thinkers’ Lodge.
Garth was a good student, and he took music lessons for several years. At Mount Allison University , he majored in psychology, with a minor in music, in voice. During this period, he made a decision to become a minister in the United Church of Canada, and after graduation attended Pine Hill Divinity Hall.
After ordination the church placed him in Saint John, New Brunswick, to develop a new congregation and also to work with an existing one. A tall order for a new graduate. At the same time, a deaconess arrived in Saint John. Dorothy Naylor had just graduated from the United Church Training School. United Church ministers at that time often gathered Sunday nights at one another’s homes after evening services. It was inevitable that they would get to know one another. Two years later they were married. For fifty-seven years, through good times and bad, through loss of grand-daughter Tina and son David, they supported one another and enjoyed a rich life together. In later years when they worked as a team, congregants and friends would enjoy the way they could be honest with each other and how they “played off” one another. People in one congregation expressed the way they were together by naming them “Gar-thy.”
In 1961, Garth and Dorothy moved to Massachusetts so that Garth could undertake graduate study in clinical psychology and counselling at Andover Newton Theological School, from which he received a Master of Sacred Theology degree, followed by a Doctor of Ministry degree. Their three children came to them while Garth was a student. Carol was born in 1962; David, born in 1961, and Jim, in 1962, came to them first as foster children, and were later adopted. The sixties in the United States were a very formative time for Garth, with major societal and cultural change, changes in the Roman Catholic Church after Vatican II, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement. Adding to this vibrant mix of graduate studies and world events, Garth served congregations in Dunstable and Dracut. It was a challenging and creative experience for Garth to be both learning, and offering leadership in the church at such a time.
In 1971 before leaving the United States, the family, including the dog, undertook a self-supported sabbatical year, living and moving around the country in a 28-foot travel trailer for 12 months. There is a saying in the family that Dorothy makes the spitballs and Garth fires them. Such was the case about this adventure – it was Dorothy’s idea. During that year, Garth had many jobs: with McDonalds, for a White House committee, as a Pinkerton security guard, and as a page at the Disneyland Hotel. It was a year that was rich in experiences, relationships and learning. At the end of the year, Trinity Church in Cobourg, Ontario, called him to be their minister, where he was to lead them through a period of change. The themes of innovation, disruption, growth and change would be hallmarks throughout his ministry.
A call to become the principal of St. Stephen’s Theological College in Edmonton was the next step for Garth. In the history of St. Stephen’s he is seen as a visionary. His time there was marked by vibrancy as he guided the college’s development into an institution that served both lay students and ordered ministers. Some new programs were the Master of Theological Studies (MTS), global study tours, and two intakes for the Western Field-Based Program in Diaconal Ministry. After retirement from the college, Garth, often with Dorothy, worked in transition ministry for a decade, a ministry that they found to be intense, but very satisfying.
After almost 30 years in Alberta, in 2007 they moved to Ottawa to be closer to Carol and Jim and their families. He enjoyed frequent contact with his grandchildren Isabelle and André,and with Heather from afar. Garth continued to work for a few years, this time helping groups of congregations to explore and make decisions about new ways to be church together.
Whatever Garth was doing, he approached it with gusto. In Alberta, camping and skiing in the mountains brought him much pleasure. Summers always found him with the family at the back shore in Pugwash, where he loved swimming in the Northumberland Strait, and with Dorothy, hosted family and many friends over the years. Throughout his life he enjoyed and excelled at playing the host – mixing drinks, making hors d’oeuvres and then settling into the conversation and making many thought-provoking comments. Alberta friends remember calling him from the hot tub: “Garthon!” (Garçon). He enlivened many parties with performances of the hop polka, which he had learned in the dance halls of northern Nova Scotia. He cherished all of his travels – and there were many – as a way of connecting with the world beyond him. Many people have spoken of changed minds and hearts because of international tours led by Garth, through St. Stephen’s College or the Centre for Christian Studies. Anyone who talked with him recently knows that the principles of quantum theory were never far from his mind. Whether invited to speak or not, Garth was never lost for words. Dorothy used to say there was no space between his brain and his mouth. And when it came to social justice, his rants could rival those of Rick Mercer.
In the many ways Garth expressed his faith he was always passionate about challenging the status quo and applying the gospel to contemporary issues. Many were inspired and stimulated by his vision. He was a large personality but was also able to attend to and be of service to others when they needed help – whether it was a need for conversation, a ride or someone to clean and dust - no task was beneath him, nor was he ever too busy to lend a hand. Family and friends are shocked and saddened by his passing, but are immensely grateful for having had him in their lives.
Mourning his passing are his wife Dorothy Naylor; son Jim (Sandra) and daughter Carol (Jean); grandchildren Heather, Isabelle and André; great-grandchild Bella; brother Eldon (Janice) and sister Carolyn Cameron; the extended Mundle family; the Naylor family; and a large network of friends.
Hours of visitation will be Friday February 15th from 3-6 pm at First United Church, 347 Richmond Road, Ottawa, with a service celebrating Garth’s life to be held Saturday February 16th at 11:00 at the church. For those who may wish to honour Garth’s life in a tangible way, the family has the following suggestions: Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre (preparing Indigenous students for ministry in their communities); Doctors Without Borders; or a charity of your choice.