Former pastor Ross McMurtry touched many lives in his ministry

Former pastor and lifelong Saskatchewan resident, Rev. Ross McMurtry will be remembered for his compassion and his love of people which impacted on nearly every activity he was involved in.

He will be laid to rest on Saturday, Feb. 2, with a service to be held at 2 p.m. at Grace United Church, where he ministered for 30 years.

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McMurtry passed away on Jan. 21 at the age of 92 years, leaving behind a legacy of loving and helping people for most of his life, including a ministry that spanned 60 years, with involvement in many community groups and endeavours over his lifetime.

His ministry included pastor of Grace United Church from 1960 until he retired in 1990, and afterwards he continued to lead services in many area communities, including Stoughton, Francis, Arcola, Carlyle, Bengough and Regina.

His involvement with two statue projects in Weyburn were among his proudest accomplishments, noted longtime friend Isabelle Butters, who served with him on both of the committees, for the T.C. Douglas statue and the Pioneer Woman statue.

She also worked with him on a four-person committee in 1965 that assisted with the resettlement of the mentally ill into halfway houses.

After Mayor Tom Laing had a meeting with government officials on the issue, the committee was set up with Sam Murray, Weyburn Review publisher Ernie Neufeld, herself and McMurtry. At least two members of the committee visited every halfway house in the province, and all four of them visited the halfway houses in Weyburn and area.

He was also involved with the local Alcoholics Anonymous support group in Weyburn, and he and Murray Sather developed a manual for AA that was adopted by AA for the province.

McMurtry was born in Semans and grew up with his clergyman father and family in Ogema, Cupar and Elstow, and after high school, his first year of university included agriculture, arts and science as well as theology.

He was ordained into the United Church of Canada in 1951 at the age of 24, and with his wife Frances, he served in charges in Wawota-Kelso, Humboldt and Weyburn. He followed the footsteps of his father, and his two brothers, Clifford and Douglas.

In June of 2011, he preached his “final sermon” with all of his family present, to mark his 60th year of ministry. In those 60 years of ministering, he performed 950 weddings and 1,250 funerals, along with numerous baptisms and counseling of many people, even those not part of his church.

“His door was always open, and he was able to help anybody who needed help. He was a great community member,” said Butters, noting he also played ball and hockey and coached minor hockey for his sons’ teams.

His agricultural interests continued while he was a minister, as he kept bees at the Pulfer farm, boarded horses on pasture land and raised cattle with his brother-in-law at Kisbey. Every year, he took part in a local roundup at a PFRA community pasture, riding with his friend Don Wilkinson.

Butters recalled one instance when a local woman, Sadie Bowerman, had trouble with her bees, so McMurtry put on his beekeeping gear and went to help her take care of her bees.

Other instances where he helped in the community included helping to negotiate a settlement between the City and RM of Weyburn on a landfill issue, and he helped negotiate the end of a strike at the Souris Valley Extended Care Centre.

When McMurtry had his 90th birthday, he was worried whether anyone would come to his celebration, said Butters, “but he had married the parents of many people or buried loved ones. There were just so many people whose lives he touched.”