MATHESON, John Ross
The Honourable John Ross Matheson of Kingston ON; formerly of Gananoque, Rideau Ferry, Ottawa, Brockville, Barrie, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec City; passed away Friday morning, from respiratory complications, in the loving presence of his children and grandchildren at Kingston General Hospital.
The oldest child of Gertrude (McCuaig) and Rev. Alexander Dawson Matheson, John was born in Arundel and raised in Quebec City. He attended Queen's University, graduating in 1940 with a B.A. Honours in Economics. He served in World War II with the First Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 1st Canadian Infantry Division. As a Forward Observation Officer, he was wounded near Ortona, Italy in 1943. He convalesced at the Veterans Hospital in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, where he met Edith Bickley. They married in 1945, after which John studied Law at Osgoode Hall, graduating in 1948. He later earned degrees from Mount Allison University (Master of Arts), and the University of Western Ontario (Master of Laws). John was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1967. He also received Honorary Doctorates from Queen's University and the Royal Military College in Kingston.
John's loyalty and service to his alma mater, Queen's University, were exemplified by his Chairmanship of the Board of Management of Queen's Theological College, tenure as a University Councillor, founding membership in the Cha Gheill Society, and two decades on the Board of Trustees.
In 1948 John and Edith settled in Brockville, where he was a founding member of the firm Matheson, Henderson and Hart. John was elected Federal Member of Parliament for Leeds in a 1961 by-election. He was re-elected in 1962, 1963, and 1965 and served as Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Pearson. In 1968, he returned to the practice of law and was appointed Judge for the Judicial District of Ottawa-Carleton. In 1979 he moved to the County Court of Lanark, Perth Ontario. In 1985 he was appointed a Judge of the District Court of Ontario and served on the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) from 1990 to 1992.
During his political career, John was a leading member of the parliamentary committee, which successfully shepherded the adoption of the Canadian (Maple Leaf) flag by parliament in 1965. Years later, his masters thesis was published under the title "Canada's Flag: A Search for a Country". He also provided the concept and the background research that led to the design of the Order of Canada in 1967.
A devoted Mason, he was a member of numerous lodges in Ontario and Quebec and cherished the practice of Freemasonry. Heraldry was another of John's passionate pursuits. He was a driving force in the foundation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Proud of his military associations, he held honorary militia appointments of LCol and then Col with the 30th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery from 1972 to 1982.
John was named Brockville Citizen of the Year in 1967. In 1993 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1999 he was the first recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians. He was a Knight of Justice in the Venerable Order of Saint John and a Knight Commander of Merit in the Order of Lazarus. He received the Canadian Centennial Medal, the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, the 125th Anniversary of Confederation of Canada Medal, and the Canadian Forces Decoration.
John was adored and will be dearly missed by loving wife Edith (Bickley) and sisters Dorothy Parnell of London ON, Catherine Carty of Montreal QC, and Margaret Slemon of Toronto ON; children Duncan and his wife Madeline (Coté), Wendy and her husband Michael Simpson, Jill and her husband David Van Every, Donald and his wife Kathryn (McWhinnie), Roderick and his wife Janet (Biewald), Murdoch and his wife Mary Jane (Cook); eighteen grandchildren, and one great grandson.
The Matheson family wishes to thank the staff of St Lawrence Place Residence, Fairmount Home and the Kidd 2 ICU at Kingston General Hospital for the loving care provided to John and his family for the past fifteen years.
John was lifelong member of the United Church of Canada, most recently Chalmers United, in Kingston, where a Celebration of Life ceremony will be held in the spring of 2014 - notice to follow. As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations to your favourite charity in John's memory would be appreciated by the family. Online condolences may be made at: www.reidfuneralhome.com
Published in The Ottawa Citizen on Dec. 31, 2013