AL UNWIN

Alan Lawrence Unwin passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, at the West Parry Sound Health Centre, on Friday, May 10th, 2024. Age 82 years.

Beloved husband of Anita for 57 years. Loving father of Al and his wife Yasemin; and Kerri and her husband Blair. Cherished Grandpa of Mitchell and Evan; Kristen and Jenna; and Graeme and Lucie. Survived by his siblings Paul, and Barbara. Forever missed by his dog, Buddy.

Al’s life was marked by many accomplishments that he was very proud of. He was passionate about education and his 30+ year career as an educator and school principal were framed by the experience he had during his time as a child and adolescent in school. He wanted people to know that his experience during that time made him feel unworthy and that the struggles he faced during his formative years in grade school and high school lead him to believe he wasn’t bright enough to succeed and unlikely to achieve anything substantial going forward. Fortunately, it also served to motivate him throughout his career and he was committed to ensuring that his approach as a teacher and leadership as a school principal would result in a very different experience for students that faced similar challenges he faced growing up in Palmerston, Ontario.

After eventually finishing high school, he went on to complete teachers’ college where he met his future wife Anita. Upon completion of teachers college they both were hired as Phys Ed teachers and began their teaching careers together. Dad continued his education with renewed confidence and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wilfred Laurier University and eventually a Master of Education from Niagara University.

His passion for education was equaled only by his enthusiasm for coaching various sports where he quickly realized that coaching was one of the best forms of leadership development. The evolution of his personal growth in leadership drove him to look at career advancement and he eventually became a school principal within the Niagara District School board for well over 20 years and was the first recipient of the Award of Excellence in Education. In the early part of his career, he also enjoyed refereeing basketball and was the first ever recipient of the Niagara District Basketball Referees Association “Pat Laing Award” for his excellence in officiating and referee development.

Al always looked forward and felt strongly that he could contribute to his community in a positive way and successfully ran for city council in the Port Dalhousie ward of the city of St. Catharines in 1986 serving three consecutive terms on council. During that time he served as Chair of the St. Catharine’s Transit Commission where he addressed substantial challenges the commission was facing that resulted in a complete restructuring of their operations.

This breadth of leadership and commitment to excellence lead him to run for the office of mayor in 1994 where he again succeeded against a crowded field of 9 candidates. During his time in office he was proud of many accomplishments including securing major provincial and federal funding for the upgrading of the Henley rowing course to a world class facility. He also led the city through the aftermath of the Bernardo Homolka murders and helped the city and community heal. His name is proudly displayed at the trailhead of the Green Ribbon trail – in recognition and remembrance of the trauma this brought the community. In addition, Al was the founder and first chair of the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario – an organization representing and advancing the issue of larger urban areas of the province with both levels of government. This organization still functions to this day (now known as Ontario’s Big City Mayors – OBCM) continuing the work that was started during his time as St. Catharine’s Mayor.

Al retired at the completion of his term as Mayor in 1997. His wife Anita and him moved fulltime to their summer cottage on the shores of Georgian Bay in Carling Township just north of Parry Sound. Dad remained active in his new community and worked at the Parry Sound Golf and Country club for several years forging new and lasting friendships with many in that community over the next two decades all while improving his golf game and fishing with friends and family. His life was substantial and meaningful and he always felt that we should all try to make things better in whatever manner and in whatever capacity someone may be a part of. He will be forever missed by so many and we are all fortunate that he ignored those high school teachers that believed he would never succeed in life.

As was his wish, cremation has taken place. A celebration of Al’s life will be held at a later date.

As expressions of sympathy, donations to the West Parry Sound Health Centre Foundation (Palliative Care) would be appreciated.

We would sincerely like to thank the Palliative Care team of doctors who helped him and all of us during his last few months.

Condolences


A pleasure to have worked with Al at Pine Grove Public School. My sincere condolences to Anita and the family.

-Keith Carscadden

It was an honour to serve on my first council under the leadership of Al. He cared deeply about his community and it showed in his actions. I will always be grateful for his generosity of time, friendship and energy. Wishing you happy memories of an individual who made a positive difference.

-Bruce Williamson

Condolences to the family and friends he was a great principal at Ferndale .

-Ash

Al was a very special person I got to know through my brother, David Morris. He was very helpful with my girls at Pine Grove school and their adjustment. The world has been better with Al in it. My sincerest condolences to his family.

-Karen Morris-McDougall

Our sincere condolences to Anita and the Unwin Family. Al put my name forward to serve on the St. Catharines Paratransit Advisory Board. He will be long remembered for his many contributions to the community of St. Catharines. Rest in Peace.

-Frank Rozman

Hello Unwin Family. I am sad to hear today of Al’s passing. My sincere condolences to all of you. While I was a Carling Township councilor, Al would occasionally reach out to give advice about a matter. I very much appreciated him and developed a very high regard for him. The Township has lost a fine person.

-Steve Crookshank

My condolences to the Unwin family. Mr. Unwin was the principal at Carlton school when I was in grade 4and 5 and then the principal at Ferndale school when I was in grade 6, 7 and 8 . I remember that he would often get me out of class to help with the billboards outside his off. I also remember saying good morning Mr.Unwin show us your pearly whites . This would bring a smile to his face and my fondest memorie was grade 8 graduation when Mr.Unwin had a special plaque made for me that said Nice Kid Award. I believe I still have it.

-Jeannie Laframboise

Al and Anita have been close friends since we started to teach together. Our families holidayed together and in our last discussion together, just a few days ago, we discussed what our families had meant to each other over the years. Al was truly one of ‘the great ones’, and we will miss him so much.

-Lee Merritt

I'm sorry to read of Al's passing. As a teacher for the local school board, I knew him as a colleague' He was truly honourable. I also had the pleasure of working with Anita during my time at Queen Mary School. My sincere condolences to the family.

-Ronald Ring

Al made a difference as an Educator and as a Politician! He was a born leader and very much respected by all who knew him. He was my friend and I will miss him! My best to the entire family.

-GJ Cunningham

My condolences to the Unwin family. Teachers can make a difference!
Rob Fast - class of '66 Lincoln Centennial

-Rob Fast

My condolences to Mr. Unwins family. He was my principal at Carleton PS. Great man. Thoughts and Prayers

-Debbie Coman

I came to Ferndale with Al. I had applied to go to another school and unbeknownst to me he wanted me at Ferndale. Al greeted me and showed me to my new classroom that would be my home for 8 years. I loved it there. He was a real team builder and he developed a cohesive staff. Fergus the Frog , Froggie Grams , Ottawa and Quebec Trios, . He was such a supportive Principal and he always had our backs . He encouraged me to put on a a full school musical, my first one was Clowns. It involved kids from grade 8 to grade 4. He even arranged for people to come in to paint the back wall of the stage as my set and rallied the entire staff to be involved. I worked with Myrna Kroeker , the Junior music teacher . Linda Holmes , the Family studies teacher did the costumes . I went on to do two more full school musicals, Cosmic Pinball and Beauty and the Beast, those with Morna Ahlstedt , who has become one of my best friends. The students may not know this but Al organized the best staff parties and retreats. My 8 years there were some of the best years of teaching I had. I loved my students and looked forward to going to work. He even commissioned a mural to be painted in the main hall, which sadly and wrongly was painted over recently . It was supposed to have been there for future generations! When Al ran for mayor we all got behind him delivering pamphlets, knocking on doors, working the elections wearing his buttons. He was not only our principal but a friend whom I held I high esteem. I’m so saddened with his loss!

-Shelley Passfield

I was saddened to hear of Al’s passing. He ran a tight ship as our Principal, but never asked someone to do something he wasn’t willing to work on himself. He was a wonderful man and a great leader. My condolences to Anita and the rest of the family. Al will certainly be missed.

-Judi Trush

John and I send our deepest sympathy to Anita and the family. We have so many fond memories of Al as a teacher and as a principal. He was a strong and positive influence in our lives.

-Morna Ahlstedt

Dear Anita and family, My sincere sympathy to you on Al’s passing. There are so many memories of the times shared when you were in St. Catharines. It was a joy to know Al. May he rest in peace.

-Patricia Waters

My condolences to the Unwin family and Al's circle of friends. Al and I met when he was the principal at Ferndale. I remember his vitality and booming voice in the hallway, and his positivity in support of the Parents In Action group of which I was a member. Most of all I'll remember that smile.

-Isabel Bachmann

I had him as my Principal at Ferndale for many years to this day my husband is familiar with who he is because he was a great leader. He always made us feel like people not burdens the odd time we had to go to his office. As the Mayor he was also great. He did so much and he will be missed.

-Crystal

My sympathy and condolence to Al's family. Al will be remembered! I was fortunate to be a fellow educator and friend of Al.

-David Morris

Dear Anita and Family,
I am so sorry to hear of Al's passing. He will be sorely missed by his friends, fellow politicians and former colleagues. As City Councillor, Mayor and Educator, Al shared his leadership skills and cooperative style with so many of us. I am honored to have served as the Special Services Counsellor while you were Principal of Ferndale and Pine Grove schools. Thankyou, Al, for your encouragement and support. You were a remarkable, inspiring Principal. Of course, Anita you were just as remarkable and inspiring in your role as LRT at Queen Mary school. Please accept my sincere condolences at this difficult time. Wishing you and your family many Happy Memories and a Peaceful Future.

-Marg Newby

So sorry to hear this news. We became good friends when Al and Nina came to Maravilla in Miramar beach. He will be sadly missed.

-Grahame and Gretchen Codd

So sorry to learn of Al Unwin's death. During his term as mayor, Al set up a Downtown Revitalization Committee and I was one of its lay members with a research interest in the subject. Along with staff and councilors, and Al's constant input, we achieved a milestone in how the downtown could be improved. Sadly, the new administration after 1997 abandoned the Committee, without even the grace to thank its members for volunteering! And today it's ironic that we find staff trying to reinvent the wheel. Al's commitment to the downtown will not be forgotten.

-Hugh Gayler

So sorry to hear of Allan's passing. I grew up in the 1960s next door to his parents, brother Paul & his sister Barb has been a dear friend for over 50 yrs. His family has always been proud of his many accomplishments. My condolences to all the family.

-Cathy Voelker

What we do in life, echoes in Eternity.

-John R Schertzer