Father, Boy Scout, photographer, volunteer, magician. Born March 30, 1923, in New Westminster, B.C., died March 6, 2013, in New Westminster, of a stroke, aged 89.
Munro was the only child of Bill MacKenzie, an electrical parts salesman in New Westminster, B.C., and Elsie, a homemaker. Munro had a free and happy childhood, and he was a good and dutiful son. He embodied the spirit and values of his time, riding his bike to an east-side school, dutifully listing his birthday and Christmas presents in his diary (he was thrilled to get hankies for his 16th birthday), serving as a Boy Scout and a counsellor at the YMCA’s Camp Elphinstone. Many childhood interests – science, photography, the outdoors – continued throughout his life.
Munro was the first member of his immediate family to go to university and was a proud student at University of British Columbia until the Second World War interrupted. He enlisted and was sent to Calgary for training, where he met the beautiful and vivacious Pamela, at a church mixer in 1943. He was shipped overseas, became a signaller and ended up with the Canadian Scottish Regiment, which took part in the liberation of Holland.
After the war, 24-year-old Munro returned home to continue his studies and court his sweetheart in a long-distance relationship. They married in 1949 and two years later, after graduating from pharmacy school, he opened his own drug store. While he had to put in long hours as a small-business owner, Munro was an attentive and devoted father to their two children, Kim and Ron, instilling a strong code of honour. Humour, too, was a big part of family life.
In January, 1982, Munro was shot in an armed robbery in his pharmacy, and lost his leg as a result. He spent four months in hospital and had to give up his business. Pamela’s role expanded to that of caregiver, which continued for the rest of Munro’s life. He could never have done it without her.
Munro was determined not to be held back by life’s challenges. He worked as a volunteer during Expo 86, as well as at the Vancouver aquarium. He was a driver for Meals on Wheels for many years. His big love, however, was Science World in Vancouver. He loved being a volunteer and engaging kids in science. A wonderful social life opened up for him and Pam; many good friends were made.
In 1995 he became a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and was an enthusiastic part of that community. Christmas Eve wasn’t complete without a magic show from Uncle Munro. He never lost his childlike sense of play.
Munro was a man of many faces. In the early 1960s, he was clean-shaven, sporting a dark crew cut, barely resembling the blond boy in his childhood photos, or the young man in the late 1940s with a tsunami of a cowlick. In the 1970s, he got shaggier, sporting salt-and-pepper mutton chops and a handlebar moustache. The first incarnations of “the” beard began in the 1980s, gradually becoming snowy white over the years.
Munro felt very strongly that he had to stay active to stay alive. It frustrated him to have physical limitations and to lose independence, but he didn’t waste time on anger. He just kept moving forward with that twinkle in his eye, having a positive influence on the lives of many.
Andre Coronado is Munro’s friend and associate.