It is with breaking hearts that we announce the untimely passing of a great man. James Adrian Gehrels was a man of a deep faith in God, a faith that fueled his passion to help others. He had many, many friends and colleagues in Canada and Internationally. Jim lived life to the full, despite being diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa as a young man. Jim graduated with a Master of Science Degree from Waterloo University, and gave up a full scholarship to do his Doctorate so that he could start making a difference in the world before he went blind. And make a difference, Jim did! He had an outstanding career as a Professional Hydrogeologist with the Ontario Public Service, earning several Emerald and an Amethyst Award for outstanding contributions to the people of Ontario. One of his principal accomplishments was as a lead investigator into the Walkerton tragedy; Jim helped to craft the legislation that will prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. Not content with making a difference at home, and driven by the knowledge that he would eventually go blind, Jim directed his efforts into helping those who lacked the basic necessity of safe drinking water. Starting in the mid-1990’s, Jim dedicated his life to bringing clean water to developing countries – principally Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya and Haiti. Lifewater Canada was founded to realize this dream. Lifewater works with local people to drill and maintain wells, teach health and hygiene and most recently to help with COVID-19 protocols. This unique approach to international development required a lifetime of passionate commitment to help build capacity where the need is unimaginably great. In Jim’s time leading Lifewater Canada, he oversaw the provision of life-saving clean water to hundreds of thousands of people. Dedicated volunteers and staff will, thankfully, continue this vital work.
Jim will be dearly missed by his wife, Lynda; son Benjamin (Naomi); daughter Hannah (Kate); parents Jack and Lenie; brother Ken (Sharon); sisters Angela (Karl) and Betty-Ann (Evan); and brother-in-law Bill, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. He was pre-deceased by his sister Corrine on July 28, 2013.
A Celebration of this remarkable man’s life will be held in Thunder Bay, by invitation only, at Bethlehem Christian Reformed Church, on Friday, July 31, 2020. Current COVID protocol will be followed. A recording of the service will be posted online at a future date.
If friends so desire, in lieu of flowers or in honour of Jim’s life and passion, donations may be made to the continuing work of www.Lifewater.ca .