Hay re­mem­bered

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - By Katie Tower Sackville Tri­bune-Post

Re­tired United Church min­is­ter and Or­der of Canada re­cip­i­ent El­don Hay is be­ing re­mem­bered for his hu­man rights work. Hay, who helped found the PFLAG move­ment in Amherst and Sackville, N.B., died Sept. 17 fol­low­ing a bat­tle with pan­cre­atic can­cer.

El­don Hay, a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for hu­man rights and a long­time United Church min­is­ter from Sackville, has died.

Hay, 85, died Sun­day af­ter a bat­tle with pan­cre­atic can­cer.

Rev. Hay, who made Sackville his home af­ter mov­ing to New Brunswick 55 years ago to take on a re­li­gious stud­ies teach­ing job and part-time chap­laincy at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity, has been a cham­pion for a more tol­er­ant and in­clu­sive so­ci­ety through­out his ca­reer.

For this work, he was the re­cip­i­ent of a Hu­man Rights Award from the New Brunswick Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion in 1997 and the Or­der of Canada in 2004. Hay was also rec­og­nized just this past spring for his six decades of ser­vice to the United Church of Canada.

Janet Ham­mock, a long­time friend and col­league, said Hay will long be re­mem­bered for how he chose to spend his life’s work – “to cham­pion and to fight for the hu­man rights of ev­ery­one.”

Whether it was indige­nous is­sues, gen­der in­equal­ity or LGBTQ rights, Ham­mock said Hay al­ways stood up against dis­crim­i­na­tion and did what he could to mo­ti­vate oth­ers to do the same. And he didn’t shy away from us­ing his min­istry to fur­ther those ef­forts. His mes­sage went be­yond Chris­tian­ity, she said, and en­com­passed all de­nom­i­na­tions.

“It was re­ally quite a priv­i­lege to know him,” said Ham­mock, who met Hay shortly af­ter mov­ing here in 1975 when she be­gan teach­ing mu­sic at Mount Al­li­son.

Gay rights ac­tivist Ger­ard Veld­hoven first met Hay at a PFLAG meet­ing in Amherst and soon be­came very aware that he was not the av­er­age per­son, but some­one who had the abil­ity to bring to­gether those who were in need of liv­ing a life of equal rights along­side oth­ers.

“His over­whelm­ing pas­sion for equal rights for all was so sin­cere and his love for hu­mankind be­yond re­proach,” said Veld­hoven. “El­don had this gift of touch­ing the lives of those that needed his wise coun­sel, re­gard­less of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, re­li­gious back­ground, gen­der iden­tity or any unique qual­ity we may pos­sess. Ev­ery­one felt his pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.”

Born and raised in Marvelville, Ont., Hay at­tended Queens and Car­leton Uni­ver­si­ties, study­ing the­ol­ogy, and was or­dained as a United Church min­is­ter in 1957. He then went on to re­ceive a doc­tor­ate in the­ol­ogy from Glas­gow Univer­sity in Scot­land.

Teach­ing var­i­ous cour­ses over his 35 years at Mount Al­li­son, in­clud­ing world re­li­gion and the­ol­ogy, he re­tired from the univer­sity in ’97 with Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus sta­tus. Dur­ing that time, he also served as a part-time min­is­ter, mainly at the Joli­cure and Pointe de Bute parishes.

Hay has been an avid hu­man rights ac­tivist over the years, deal­ing with is­sues re­lated to fem­i­nism, anti-semitism, and an­tiFrench sen­ti­ments. It was in 1986, how­ever, when his son Ron came out as gay, that he then be­gan to place more fo­cus on eras­ing an­ti­ho­mo­pho­bic views as well.

Hay’s ad­vo­cacy for LGBTQ rights was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting a re­gional chap­ter of PFLAG started in Monc­ton in the early 1990s. Months later, he helped ini­ti­ate a PFLAG chap­ter in Amherst as well. Through group meet­ings and get-to­geth­ers, PFLAG not only of­fered support, ed­u­ca­tion and com­fort for the fam­ily and friends of les­bians and gays but also worked to­wards a healthy so­ci­ety re­spect­ful of gen­der and sex­u­al­ity.

Ham­mock, who served as a fa­cil­i­ta­tor for PFLAG in Amherst, said Hay was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing a lot of ‘clos­eted’ peo­ple work through years of strug­gles and pro­vided much-needed support to fam­i­lies of those that were com­ing out.

“There’s a huge amount of peo­ple who are in­debted to him.”

Hay was also known to be a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to the ‘let­ters to the ed­i­tor’ sec­tion of the lo­cal news­pa­pers, al­ways will­ing to ex­press his views on causes he felt im­por­tant.

“He had cer­tain causes and he fought for those causes all through­out his life,” said Ham­mock.

A ser­vice is be­ing held for Hay at Mount Al­li­son Univer­sity Chapel on Fri­day, Sept. 22, be­gin­ning at 11 a.m. Vis­i­ta­tion will be held at the Sackville United Church on Thurs­day from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.

Sub­mit­ted

El­don Hay, 85, died Sept. 16 fol­low­ing a bat­tle with pan­cre­atic can­cer.

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