Eldon Hay left our world on Sept. 17, 2017, in Sackville, N.B., as a result of pancreatic cancer.
His overwhelming passion for equal rights for all was so sincere and his love for humankind beyond reproach. He was a constant in his endeavour to make positive change. He was also a sought-after speaker and adviser and this became Eldon’s way of contributing to the betterment of Canada’s LGBTQ citizens.
He possessed the ability to understand and not unduly criticize, instead choosing to put a positive spin on things. Those of us who knew Eldon were very much aware of the gift he had of touching the lives of those who needed his wise council, regardless of sexual orientation, religious background, gender identity, or any other unique quality we may possess. Everyone felt his positive attitude. Strong of character and determined, he marched on the road to equality for all. I know I may speak on behalf of the LGBTQ community who want to acknowledge their appreciation of his work in our community and his activism in human rights.
Eldon Hay was a retired United Church minister and professor of Religion at Mount Allison University. He was married with seven children, including a lesbian daughter and a gay son, resulting in Eldon’s determination to tackle the issues concerning equality. Son Ron describes his father as a man of passion, compassion, principle and love. “My concern about telling him was that he’d go, ‘Yes, I have a gay son!’” he said. “So all those fears of telling him came true, and thank god they did.”
Eldon’s passion for equal treatment goes far beyond the needs of the LGBTQ community, such as the rights for any individual or group of people. This is precisely the reason he has won the respect and love of so many. In 1997, he received the New Brunswick Human Rights Award and in 2003, Eldon Hay received the Order of Canada in recognition of his work regarding LGBTQ rights.
The following is how Eldon was described in receiving the order: “With intelligence, integrity and compassion, this human rights activist has championed a more tolerant, inclusive society.”
Eldon founded the Moncton and Sackville/Amherst chapters of PFLAG Canada and was the first national president. On May 31 past, Amherst raised the Pride flag and as I drove to the site I noticed Eldon walking slowly down Church Street, hands clasped behind his back. He appeared tired and gladly accepted the drive.
A week later, Amherst had the first ever Pride Parade in that town. Eldon, in true form, would not be deterred and joined me and Sherri Briand as part of the parade. We were asked to bring up the rear and felt somewhat out of tune. A police officer, Scott White, smiled and said, “You may be the last, but we saved the best for last.”
Eldon’s last appearance in a parade was in Moncton in August. I visited with Eldon a few weeks ago in his home and both of us were aware this would be the last time we would meet. I salute Eldon Hay, husband, father, grandfather, author, educator, true to his religion, challenger, human rights activist and a champion for all. You were and will remain “A man for all seasons.”
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.