Merle Gunby: A deep love of the natural world.


It is with regret that we share the news of club member Merle Gunby’s death. Merle was an honourary member of our club and greatly respected for his involvement with the local naturalist community and his gentle love of the natural world.

In the words of Bill Moses, friend and fellow naturalist:

Merle Gunby passed away on April 2nd.

I would have to say that I am not a person who seeks out and and then works at maintaining close friendships. Yet at my “70th” (orchestrated by my wife Cecilie), during my required “speech”, while pointing out and acknowledging the significant people in my life who had attended, when I came to Merle Gunby I described him as my best friend, which came as a surprise to both of us. I must admit that from that point I did work harder at maintaining that friendship because it was then that I came to realize the value that Merle had held in my life.

I first met Merle when I joined the Inglis Falls Arboretum Alliance at the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. That was in the spring of 2004. Prior to that I had my own little arboretum and propagation area. Taking my passion “public” was good for me and allowed me to make a more lasting contribution to the public good. I must say that this also initiated my personal interest in native woody plants, a fundamental basis of the Arboretum Design Plan prepared for the Arboretum Alliance.

I think that Merle and I hit it off because we were both “ramblers” and we both could learn from each other about our mutual interest in plants – woody plants in particular. Merle’s knowledge extended to a much broader area of flora and fauna than mine did and, on the side, I picked up a lot of from him in those areas as well.

On one typical early ramble, Merle introduced me (on a three or four hour long hike) to the Long Swamp, but Merle had a lot of health problems – the most significant, Parkinson’s Disease. Thus, over the years our rambles were reduced in time and finally just to “backroading” with occasional stops to check out a plant or collect some wild apples (once or twice picked from the car window).

Through my association with Merle, I got to know (or at least come on the radar of) many local naturalists, Blake Smith, Nels Maher and Mac Kirk to name a few.

Merle never turned down an opportunity to take a leadership role. (I was always a backroom boy, secretary, treasurer, IT guy and so on.) Merle’s Honourary Life Member status at OSFN was very important to him as were the many other honours he garnered over the years. All you have to do is to search for Merle Gunby on Google to realize that! Merle’s wife Sheila recognized that importance and with me (and many others) will work hard to make sure that he is remembered going forward.

~Bill Moses