Gananoque mourns proud Lion, beloved citizen

·4 min read

Gananoque has lost a mainstay in the community.

George Funnell, known affectionately by many simply as Funnell, died at Kingston General Hospital on Aug. 25. He was 69.

Funnell was a member of the Gananoque Lions Club for over 25 years and a fixture in the halls and classrooms at Gananoque Secondary School.

Funnell is remembered for his warm-hearted smile and good-natured demeanour.

A statement by the Gananoque Lions Club, posted to its website, described Funnell as one of the community's most cherished men.

"He brought a smile and a laugh to those around him, he taught us patience, compassion and loyalty," the statement reads.

"There are a million stories each of us have because of our time spent with George. Our little town had him as a pillar to look to when things were tough. He was a true Lion for over 25 years and our hearts are immensely heavy without him."

Susan Tunnicliffe, the district governor for District A4 Lions Club International and a member of Gananoque's Lions Club, gave Funnell his 25-year milestone chevron for his 25 years of membership to the Lions Club in good-standing.

She described Funnell as being "amazing for the community, for our youth."

"He would smile ear-to-ear all the time; he was funny and he had this thing he’d do, where at the end of Lions Club meetings we’d sing The Maple Leaf Forever. It's an anthem type of thing, and at the end of the last sentence it goes, 'The Maple Leaf forever,' and he made us change it to, 'the Maple Leafs forever,'" Tunnicliffe laughed, referring to the NHL team.

"He taught our youth valuable, valuable lessons, and every one of those kids that helped George throughout the years, were amazing. What he taught our community was unbelievable. Everyone knew George. He was a happy guy."

Funnell, who had cerebral palsy, communicated with the assistance of a tablet connected to his wheelchair.

"But a lot of the people who were close to him, there was this amazing communication they had between them," Tunnicliffe said. "They understood him. He was an amazing, amazing guy who will be sorely missed."

A statement from the Town of Gananoque reads that there is hardly a person in the community whom Funnell didn’t know.

"Some of us were even lucky enough to help assist him in his daily life, getting him to and from school, eating lunch with him, and of course talking about hockey," the statement reads.

"It did not matter how long it had been since you saw him last, he always met you with that sly smile and quick wit, like no time had passed."

Gananoque Secondary School said in a statement that Funnell was an integral piece of the fabric of the school and a pillar in the community.

"While COVID didn’t allow him much time in our building lately, his heart was always with us and he longed for the day he could return regularly," the statement reads.

"He shaped many of us and our students into the people we are today and he will be greatly missed. He was certainly one-of-a-kind."

In honour of Funnell, GSS and the Town of Gananoque lowered their flags to half-mast.

Predeceased by his mother Mollie (Leeder) and father George Funnell Sr. and his cherished sister Julia Ann Funnell, George Funnell is survived by his cousins John Keilty (Noni) of Kingston, Anne Isaac (Jim) and Deannie Sargent (Bob) of Milton, and Murray Keyes of Gananoque.

"Over the years there were so many visitors and volunteer students from Gananoque Secondary to the Funnell home," the obituary reads. "George maintained a special relationship with so many of the incredible teachers and staff. The kindness they all showed him was truly remarkable."

In lieu of flowers donations were asked to be made to the Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy, St. Johns Church Restoration Fund or to the Gananoque Food Bank.

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times