On Monday, February 5, a head-on collision south of Parry Sound, Ontario, claimed the life of Oakville psychiatrist Dr. Murray McGovern.
The McGoverns were driving into town from their winterized cottage, first to see one of the doctor’s patients and then to go 10:45 Mass. On a slippery road, with blowing snow, a 1988 Toyota driven by Richard Lewis rammed right into their Jeep Cherokee.
“All I remember,” said Mrs. McGovern, who was driving, “is a car coming straight at us.” She suffered minor injuries: her husband was killed instantly. So were Richard and his brother Michael, two boys in their mid-twenties.
Murray McGovern, who was born in Montreal, graduated from the University of Ottawa Medical School in 1953 and began to practise in Oakville.
He interned at the Cleveland General Hospital, and while there met Laverne, who was to become his wife. He did his special training in pediatrics at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He turned to psychiatry about 1969, and according to Dr. Carmen Scime was the first person to gain certification in this subject from the McMaster Medical School
Dr McGovern was a sane and sensible psychiatrist; his sanity and his medical knowledge made him a dedicated supporter of the pro-life cause. He possessed a firmly held set principles based on faith, knowledge, and common sense. His daughter Terese Ferri said that she did not think her father had missed daily Mass once in forty years.
In his thought and his reading, the secular and the spiritual mingled harmoniously: he was able to bring St. Thomas Aquinas (one of his favourite saints) into has conversation just as easily as Sigmund Freud.
There were many stories told of his common-sense responses to difficult situations. Faced with one unteachable boy, he quickly decided. “He’s not unteachable. He hasn’t been taught.” Another boy, a seemingly hopeless disturber of his school’s peace, was a changed person after a half-hour interview with Dr. McGovern.
On the Monday after his death, he had been scheduled to an Oakville group on the subject of fatherhood. The group would have been favoured with a very wide-ranging discussion of the subject, laced with plenty of humour On this topic he could speak with considerable authority: he and his wife had twelve living children (one had died), and forty-one grandchildren.
Seldom has there been a more convincing demonstration of the profound effect of religious belief on a family than the way in which his wife and children accepted Dr. McGovern’s passing. In their view his faith, to which he gave testimony every day, meant that he was always ready for
death. If God chose to take him at that time, they accepted it as His will.
In a stirring homily delivered at Dr. McGovern’s funeral on February 9, an old friend and admirer, Father Peter Watters, elaborated on the necessity of our always living as though death could come at any time.
But he also paid tribute to Dr. McGovern as a man whose life had been one service; he was a real physician, a healer of men’s minds and souls as well as bodies.
Concluding his eulogy, Father Watters expressed the idea which was present in the minds of many others at the funeral service that February morning: “He touched the lives of many people.”
Our loss was greater than his.