Rev. Dr. David Laurence Mawhinney was born on February 4, 1941 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He passed away on September 15, 2020 in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia upon the 72nd anniversary of his arrival in Canada with his parents, Rev. David Mawhinney (1906-1992) and Edith McCullough (1914-2005). They settled in Rose Bay, Lunenburg County which became their home for the next three years.
Laurence spent his growing up years with his family serving Presbyterian Church congregations including: Athelstan, QC; Tyne Valley, PEI; and North Sydney, NS where he graduated from Thompson High School in 1957. During the next three years he began preaching as a supply minister in the Pictou Presbytery while working at Hamilton’s Biscuits in Pictou, NS. He enrolled at Sir George Williams University in Montreal graduating with a BA in 1964, and completed his BDiv (1966) and MDiv (1983) at Presbyterian College. His summer mission fields included congregations in Ganton, AB and Mille Isle, QC. His theological placement as a student assistant was at Knox Crescent Kensington Presbyterian Church in NDG with Rev. Dr. Clifton J. MacKay. Following ordination, Laurence was appointed minister of the Cape Breton Presbyterian pastoral charge that included: Orangedale, Lake Ainslie, River Denys, Malagawatch, and Strathlorne. Subsequently, he moved to St. Andrew’s, Pictou in 1967.
Laurence’s lifelong interest in politics led him to run provincially in October of 1970. He was unsuccessful, so went to work with the Province of Nova Scotia as an Executive Assistant to the Minister of Trade and Industry. Another unsuccessful run at federal politics in October of 1972 led him to get involved with a Halifax based shipping firm, F.C. Warren. He also continued his pastoral work in Dartmouth offering Sunday supply.
After accepting a call, Laurence was inducted into the pastoral charge of St. Andrew’s, Rose Bay and St. Andrew’s, Lunenburg on October 29, 1973. He served those churches until retirement on February 1, 2004. He returned to active ministry in 2012 serving the Lunenburg County Presbyterian Churches. In 1982, he began serving as the Interim Moderator / part-time minister of Knox, Dublin Shore and St. Matthew’s, West Dublin until ill health forced him to retire from active ministry in 2017.
Laurence served the wider Church in a variety of capacities: Moderator of the Presbytery of Halifax-Lunenburg on two occasions; Moderator of the Synod of the Atlantic Provinces (1991); Chair of a variety of committees and commissions; and supported the work of his wife, Marion, as the Camp Geddie Convenor. He was recognized for his work with the Church in 2013 when the Presbyterian College awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. His long service with the Presbyterian Church in Canada concluded on September 1, 2020, with the completion of his role as the Interim Moderator for Kings Presbyterian Church in New Minas, NS. He continued to serve as the Chaplain for the Veterans’ Unit at the Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg until his death.
While living in Lunenburg Laurence found great personal satisfaction in the political arena. He ran in a by-election and was elected to the Lunenburg Town Council in 1976. He chaired the 225th Anniversary Committee in 1978 and was elected Mayor the following year. He served the community he loved for 33 years before stepping down in 2012.
He took great pride in the achievements of those years, particularly, the first Canadian infrastructure program which linked the three orders of government together in a $6 billion program for all 4,000 Canadian municipalities. The new Lunenburg & District Fire Hall, wastewater treatment plant and water protection are all visible results of this funding. He served as the lead municipal government representative on the first ever “Team Canada” mission to China and Hong Kong in the fall of 1995. He believed that the UNESCO designation obtained by Lunenburg that same year would be key to many of the opportunities which followed.
Laurence was fortunate to represent the Town of Lunenburg on many occasions, including the British Royal Visit (1983), Norwegian Royal Visit (2002), and the visit of the spouses of the G-7 leaders (1999). His role took him to Ottawa on many occasions to speak to Parliamentary Committees and Cabinet Ministers about his favorite topic, the “Town of Lunenburg.” He also travelled to Guyana as part of the Team Nova Scotia initiative to support the Guyana Association of Municipalities to develop their democratic institutions; Washington, D.C. to speak about Canadian local government with international banking executives; and the Yukon on three occasions to address the roles and responsibilities of elected and appointed officials.
During his more than thirty-six years in municipal government, Laurence developed a passion for the processes and objectives of local government. He became active in the work of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, ultimately serving as president (1989-1990). He followed the same pattern with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities also serving as president (1994-1995). He was active with the Maritime Municipal & Development Board sponsored by the Council of Maritime Premiers as a board member and chair. In a similar vein, he was a presenter at the Nova Scotia Provincial Orientation for newly elected council members for sixteen years.
Laurence’s love of community led him to volunteer with a wide range of local organizations including: the School Board; Lunenburg Minor Hockey; Boy Scouts Group Committee; Lunenburg & District Music Festival; Bluenose Golf Club; Lunenburg Community College; Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital Board; Rotary Club; Lunenburg Waterfront Association Inc.; and Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance. He was an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch #23).
Besides his parents, Laurence was predeceased by his daughters: Joan Elizabeth (1971), Patricia Lynn “Tish” (2001) and his granddaughter Rachel Ann (1991). He is survived by his wife of 55 years Marion (Mason); his children: David, Michael (Selena Martell), Alison (Ian Marshall), and Suzanne (Dan Rudolf); his grandchildren: Justin, Renee, Zachary, Lexie, AJ, Hanna and Paige; his sister, Dorothea and his niece and nephews: Helen, Wallace and Donald.
Laurence Mawhinney lived life to the full believing that we must squeeze out of it every ounce of energy and meaning. He was always supported by his much more private, yet deeply devoted and caring wife, Marion, and a strong family. In fact, he would say that whatever he had been able to achieve was only possible because of their love and support at home. They knew him as he really was and still loved him. “That was the greatest gift of all,” he wrote in a 2006 reflection on his life. “To be loved unconditionally and know that you are offered this great gift is an amazing feeling, it cannot be described in words. It just has to be accepted and I do so humbly, and with my deepest expression of gratitude to my wife, Marion, and all our children.” This same love was also extended by his chosen home in Lunenburg County. Its citizens welcomed, embraced and sustained him over the last 47 years.
“I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
The family would like to express thanks to Laurence’s health care team: Dr. John Jenkins; Dr. Sudeep Shivakumar and the nurses in the VG Hospital; the VON; Dr. Ron Hatheway; Dr. Debra Gowan and Melanie Spence. Their care, support and assistance were very much appreciated.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a funeral service will not be held. A private family service will take place at a later date.
Donations to honour Laurence’s life may be made to South Shore Palliative Care, Presbyterians Sharing , Camp Geddie or to a charity of your choice, through the Dana L. Sweeny Funeral Home, Lunenburg.
The public is invited to sign a book of remembrance for Laurence on Wednesday, September 23, from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. and Thursday, September 24, from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Lunenburg Band Stand or at the Dana L. Sweeny Funeral Home, 11213 Hwy. # 3, Lunenburg.