Forgiveness & Strength: The Legacy of the Julia Hunter Memorial Fund

Feb. 05, 2014

When his daughter passed away unexpectedly in a car accident, Murray Hunter knew that he wanted her legacy to live on in a way that was meaningful to the both of them. After hearing the news that no parent should ever have to hear, London Community Foundation was the first thing that came to mind for Murray.

Shortly after his daughter’s passing, a Donor Advised Fund, the Julia Hunter Memorial Fund was established. Murray decided that with this fund, he would support community gardens. A simple, heartwarming choice, Murray believed gardening was the one thing in life that made him feel truly content and at peace; the same happiness he used to feel when he was with his daughter.

Over the years, Murray has had the privilege of supporting various community garden initiatives such as an outdoor garden at Banting House National Historic Site, a memorial garden for Bereaved Families of Ontario (Southwest Region), and a garden at St. Paul’s Cathedral which provides food for the fellowship centre. Through initiatives like these, Murray has been able to keep the joy of his daughter, Julia, alive and close to his heart.

Most recently, Murray had the opportunity to support a tree planting that was especially meaningful to him. After developing an affinity with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) following his daughter’s death, Murray came to a new understanding of forgiveness. That is, he came to interpret forgiveness to mean, “wanting the person to have a reasonable chance at happiness and to have the opportunity to make their own contribution to the life of the community.” With the belief that all people should be valued and forgiven, Murray wrote to the woman who took his daughter's life while she served her time in jail.  After speaking to schools about drunk driving, this woman revealed to Murray it was her hope that one day, the two of them would be able to speak on the topic of impaired driving together; as victim and offender. To prepare himself for this, Murray began volunteering for St. Leonard’s Community Services London and Region (SLCS), speaking on behalf of MADD several times a year to individuals in the program for impaired drivers. In doing this, he realized there are not many people who receive joy from helping past offenders. However, he saw something that is easily overlooked; these were struggling people caught in a difficult situation. Given what he has been through with his daughter, Murray was able to feel great empathy for them. Because of his personal connection to the people of SLCS, he wanted to contribute something to send a message of strength and add positivity to the community.

In honour of his mother’s passing, donations were made to the Julia Hunter Memorial Fund to support a tree planting at Cody Centre, a residential half-way house run by SLCS. Murray was inspired by the work of the Centre's staff and the efforts of the participants in the program who strive to better their lives. He believed planting a tree at Cody Centre would be fitting, as it symbolizes growth. It adds beauty to the community and sends a message that the program participants are worthy of respect and encouragement. Symbolizing strength, the tree will always be a reminder to the individuals staying at the Centre to persevere through difficult times.

On November 20th, 2013, members of the community, including representatives from MADD London, London Community Foundation and SLCS, gathered together to celebrate the work of SLCS and the Cody Centre. Each individual present contributed to helping plant the tree which will forever symbolize strength, determination, new beginnings and new life.

There is no doubt that Murray Hunter’s philanthropic journey with London Community Foundation has been personally gratifying, meaningful and emotionally moving. When asked why London Community Foundation was the first thing on his mind when he heard the heart-wrenching news about his daughter, he replies,

the value of community foundations are incalculable. They create the context for change. By bringing together forward-thinking community leaders, the Foundation connects people, hopes and ideas and applies resources to present day problems. Connecting people with causes meaningful to them, they create the context for things like this to happen.” – Murray Hunter, London Community Foundation Donor