Robert White served his community with faith and dedication.
On March 8, White passed away at his home in Guelph. He was 61.
His Christian faith was a natural expression of who he was, and he integrated it into his daily life.
“When I reflect on that particular word, ‘dedication’, it became clearly evident to me that Robert was dedicated to many things,” says close friend and Guelph Mayor, Cam Guthrie.
“He was dedicated to his faith in Christ, dedicated to his family and dedicated to helping others.”
White is remembered for his work as a journalist, photographer, author, owner and manager of the Canadian Christian News Service (CCNS). He was also a producer, writer, director of plays, composer of music and a freelance writer for various newspaper publications, Christian magazines and media and he was the host of Faith FM’s “Art Connection”.
He is also remembered for his involvement with the Salvation Army, Lakeside Church, the Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium, Wellington Area Scouts, Audience of One Christian Theatre Company, Flying Bow Music Ministry and Christian Current/Christian Week Ontario.
Wayne Hong, retired major with the Salvation Army, says White was a committed and fully engaged Christian.
“Robert utilized these same skills in his active involvement with the Salvation Army promoting his ministry to the disadvantaged. He managed The Salvation Army Thrift Stores in the Guelph area with dedication and love for this ministry,” Hong said.
“During this time, he was also a member of the Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium representing not only The Salvation Army but his own desire to demonstrate a personal love for community service.”
Guthrie recalls White’s impact, both personally, and professionally.
“The thoughts that I share come from a place mostly sourced under our relationship and our interaction around the career that I am currently blessed to be serving in today as mayor of this great city, and I can tell you that it’s purely due to his dedication to me that I’m here,” Guthrie shared at White’s funeral.
On many occasions, the two would meet and reminisce about Guthrie’s campaign for Mayor and talk through current issues.
“I always remember how proud he was to have led that campaign. And he had every right to be,” Guthrie says.
“But back to that word, dedication. Robert knew, even in the midst of a 24/7 one-year long campaign, that there were other things, more important things that he needed to be dedicated to.”
Guthrie says White’s love for his wife Pam and his two children, Timothy and Kathleen, shone through.
“Many times, I did ask him to come early or stay later because an issue arose during the campaign and he very lovingly told me he had to be with his family and that we could talk about it the next day,” Guthrie said.
“He was proud of his family, and he showed it to me by making them his priority.”
This year, Pamela White would have been celebrating 35 years of marriage with her husband.
“His faith was who he was, and in many ways, it’s because of his faith that Robert was able to keep up with his limitations. It gave him strength, despite all of the struggles with his health.”
White was born with a heart condition and had undergone many corrective surgeries over the years, the first, when he was just eight years old. In recent years, he was diagnosed with anemia and osteoarthritis.
With limited mobility, White was still determined to help others where he could.
An advocate for music and the arts, Pamela says her husband would often encourage and help other new and aspiring writers.
White, author of The Stone Churches of Downtown Guelph, was also working toward completing his own memoir.
“The theme is about finding the balance between his faith and his medical limitations. I do still hope to get it published one day,” Pamela said.
“When Robert produced a show on Faith FM, he would often interview authors and artists, those who expressed their faith through art.”
Pamela met her husband 37 years ago through their affiliation in the Salvation Army.
“I met Robert at the Salvation Army Church he attended, Parkallen Corps, in Edmonton in 1984. I was a pastor with the Salvation Army. I had just come back from a conference in Banff. We were all getting together for a sleigh ride. We started chatting and we found out that we both shared the same last name. And it also turned out that we knew a lot of the same people,” Pamela says.
“He played guitar and sang. I was so smitten.”
The couple married in Edmonton in 1986.
“We didn’t think we could have children and after six years of marriage, our son was born” Pamela said.
White then received a position with the Salvation Army as a Community Ministries Director in Kelowna, B.C., and the couple’s daughter, Kathleen was born soon after.
“I call them my miracle babies. Today, they are grown up and they are still so close. Robert always made sure to go to major events for the children and once a week, he would take the kids out for lunch and this continued on for years.”
The family moved to Guelph, Pamela’s hometown, in the mid 1990’s.
White contributed to the Christian Current, which circulated in the city and surrounding areas.
“It was a family affair. For over ten years, along with the kids, we would all do deliveries to churches and Christian organizations. I think it was because of this, our kids learned much of the work ethic they have today.”
White’s dedication to his faith, family and community continues to inspire others.
“Robert’s influence has led me to be more dedicated to my faith, more dedicated to be a better dad and husband, more dedicated to authentic relationships and more dedicated to have fun along the way,” Guthrie said.
“His dedication to Christ spilled out of him unto me and I am forever grateful for it. He will be so dearly missed.”