Murray Jorgenson: Father. Friend. Fisherman. Teacher. Born Jan. 18, 1947, in Swift Current, Sask.; died March 21, 2021, in Saskatoon, of a heart attack; aged 74.
Murray Jorgenson spent most of his childhood in Swift Current, Sask. He moved to Saskatoon as a teenager and studied art and education at the University of Saskatchewan. His life was touched by tragedy throughout, losing his baby sister and, later, two wives to cancer. At 26, Murray began to raise his three sons alone: Wayne was three years old, Derek was 2, and I was just five months old.
My father’s love was not flashy or insecure; it was mathematically constant. However, this does not really tell you who he was and what he meant to me. My father was at his happiest on a lake, on a sunny day, searching for a monster northern pike.
In my dad’s tackle box, I can see the lessons that he taught me.
In this tackle box, you’ll find everything anyone in the boat might need (pliers, bug repellent, extra line ... ) My dad taught me to always be prepared and most importantly, to be prepared to help.
In this tackle box are some of the most bizarre and strangest hooks ever to grace the cold waters of Saskatchewan: large rubber frogs, huge heavy jig heads, nearly foot-long spoons. If the fish weren’t biting, he was not afraid to use them, however improbable it would be to catch a fish on one. My father always wanted to go to the place that others had not. He took his sons on long road trips and, later in life, travelled with his girlfriend Janet Cram. My father taught us that variety is the spice of life, to not be afraid of new adventures and that the journey is better than the destination.
This tackle box is not new, not fancy or expensive. It is well used and well cared for like so many of the people that my father watched over: He was always there – often at a moment’s notice – to watch his grandkids (Ben, Will, France, Lily and Parker), to change a flat tire or to take someone to the doctor. My father worked hard every day for 56 years (first as a high-school art teacher, then as a school bus driver). My father taught us the value of hard work and honesty.
In his tackle box, you will find my favourite hook: a Len Thompson five of diamonds. I used it a lot since my father kept his line out of the water so he could steer the boat, untangle his children’s lines, change their hooks and help land their fish. My father taught me that life is about helping others.
As a teenager. I thought that my dad’s guidance was absent. I did not have a curfew or a long list of rules. Really, his guidance was so imperceptible that I did not notice. My dad’s guiding hand was always there even when I did not see it – just like a fly fisherman, casting line and hook to draw the fish to the surface by letting the fly caress the water for the briefest of moments, almost not touching the water at all. My dad, like the greatest of teachers, taught me while leaving me unaware that I had been taught.
Like fish on the line, the line between life and death can snap at any moment, leave the lake still and us alone on the shore. By learning to cope with the tragedy in his life, my father taught me to appreciate life’s fragility, to enjoy life not in spite of its precariousness but because it is so fleeting. And he taught me that we should enjoy the struggle, the excitement, the glory and even life’s disappointments while we can. This is what my father taught me.
Keith Jorgenson is Murray’s youngest son.
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