James Durnford

Obituary of James Gordon Durnford

James "Gordon" Durnford, of Halifax


Gordon passed away on May 28th, 2023. He was 92. Born in the small outport community of Francois, Newfoundland, to Arthur Robert Durnford and Edith Jane Childs. He was the seventh child of a family of eight. He is predeceased by his siblings Mable, John, Janet, William, Ida, and Reginald, and survived by his sister Mary.  It was a rugged childhood by today’s standards—no electricity or indoor plumbing. Dad told stories of the water in the kettle being frozen in the wintery mornings, of feather beds stuffed with gull feathers, the morning ritual of emptying the chamber pots, and starting the old wood-fired stove. Living in the Newfoundland outports required a hardiness and self-sufficiency, which carried through to Dad’s adult years. But it was an upbringing that was rich in many ways and Dad would reflect on this time as a happy one.


 It’s hard to imagine being out making a living when you are 15 as Dad did. Working cutting trees by hand and hauling timber with teams of horses or working as a deck hand with his brother and father on fishing schooners that would be out at sea for weeks. In search of more opportunities, he moved to Halifax with his wife, Sarah, where he did his navigational training to skipper ships. Amongst the training requirements was morse code, which he practiced with Sarah in the single room apartment they rented in downtown Halifax. This led him to various positions, including captain of a tugboat in Sept-ÎIes, Quebec, then to tugboats in Halifax Harbour, eventually working on the Department of National Defense Glen-class tugs where he served until his retirement in 1995. All these experiences instilled a work ethic in Dad that carried through all his activities. He wasn’t one for standing still.


Dad joined Freemasonry in 1965 where he served in a variety of roles over 58 years. His mother lodge was St. John’s Lodge No 2 in Halifax, where he was a Past Master and Very Worshipful Brother and was often called upon to help with complex ritual work.  He was also a member of several other concordant bodies including the Royal Arch Mason, the Scottish Right, Shriners, and the Royal Order of Scotland. Dad and his son Dean spent many evenings together with the St. John’s Lodge and the Royal Arch Masons, something they both enjoyed tremendously.


Dad also served several years as the Warden at the Emmanuel Anglican Church in Spryfield, where he donated many hours keeping the church and adjacent hall in good condition. And, in an adventure that surprised us all, Dad became a regular participant in the dinner theater production at the Emmanuel Church, acting and singing in several productions. It was the biggest fundraiser of the year for the church and Dad was proud of this accomplishment. Dad also loved to work out, and had a long history of jogging, which turned into walking right up until his last days. He even had a gym membership at 92, leaving us with few excuses for not keeping up.


Dad is survived by his wife of 67 years, Sarah, and his three sons: Dean (Kim), Daniel (Heidi) and Dion (Jackie). He also had grandchildren, who he doted on: Lindsay (Marcus), Shawn (Charley), Emma, Adam, Eric, Dana, Dax, Emma, and Ashley. He was always supportive of all their activities and felt pride in their accomplishments. More recently, two great-grandchildren were added to the family, Haden Muiser and Violet Bowser. We feel it important to also mention Dad’s dog, Dudley, who entered the picture when he and Mom became empty nesters and who was his constant companion and paper fetcher for 16 years.


There will be a visitation at the J. Albert Walker funeral located at 149 Herring Cove Road in Spryfield on June 5th between 1:00 – 3:00PM and 6:30-8:00 (A Masonic Service will be held at 7) PM.


The Funeral Service will be held at the Emmanuel Church in Spryfield on the following day, Tuesday June 6th,  at 11am with a reception to follow in the Church Hall.


The service is also being livestreamed and can be found at emmanuelanglicanchurch.net


Burial will be at Emmanuel Anglican Cemetery.


Words of comfort may be sent by clicking on “Tribute Wall”.


 In lieu of flowers, you can donate to the Palliative Care Unit at the VG Hospital, whose staff treated Dad with the utmost care and to whom we are grateful.


In the hospital, Dad began reciting from memory the last stanza from a poem he read many times as a child. Turns out it was the poem “The Day is Done” by Longfellow that reflects on a worker’s feelings after a hard day’s work. That last stanza was this:


And the night shall be filled with music,

And the cares, that infest the day,

Shall fold their tents, like Arabs,

And as silently steal away

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