Inducted: November 18, 2008
Both loved children and young people, and that love was returned in full measure. This was evident in the heartfelt eulogies when Murray died in 2007. One of them recognized that Murray did far more than teach the 12 to 18 year olds who came within his orbit. “He empowered us by giving us the tools we needed to succeed and then allowed us to try them out. If we made mistakes, he would tell us, but in a way that was very constructive and encouraging. He deserves so much credit for helping to develop the self-confidence and work ethic in so many youth.”
“All in all, Murray brought out the best in us.”
Heather Linington, who got to know Murray in 1980 when she came to Chatham with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, said Murray, with Shirley, worked to promote the Dresden Exhibition. “I always felt a great deal of calm whenever I was working on anything with Murray as I knew that he could solve all problems and he would know what to do!” She predicted that Murray would live on “in all of the successes of all the young people whose lives he touched.”
His nephew, Dr. Mike Newell, described his uncle as “very quiet, capable, unassuming and hard-working, very genuine in anything he did”. He accomplished much in life, “quietly, and without a lot of fanfare.”
Murray and Shirley demonstrated their love for young people in the “Ambassador” program. They shared a determination to make the Dresden Exhibition, a “real exhibition”. Murray came up with the idea, and Shirley carried it through. In it, she encouraged 17-year olds to compete for the honour of being Miss Dresden Exhibition. In the case of Shirley (Vanek) Gelinas, now a Secondary School Vice-Principal, this led to the title of “Miss CNE”, and many opportunities for life enrichment. Another Dresden Ambassador, Jocelyn Badder, went on to become a CNE Ambassador.
Shirley’s working life, in the office of Dr. Lloyd Payne, and later his son, Dr. John Payne, gave her another outlet for her love of people.
Murray was born in Chatham, one of six children of Edgar George McKerrall and the former Velma Forsyth. He attended SS 7, Chatham Township, and started farming at an early age. From the first he was interested in activities to improve agriculture, first as a member of Junior Farmers before making a life-long commitment to 4-H Clubs, and to the Dresden Agricultural Society and its goals. One of his interesting projects in this area was the Carousel he designed and constructed, with support from Hector and Marilyn Delanghe, which touted the County’s productivity with the slogan, “Good Things Grow in Kent”. He encouraged his nephews, Paul, Rob and Mark McKerrall, as well as many other young people to have an interest in agriculture, or to even follow it as a career.
Murray went on to lead 4-H Clubs for 30 years plus, working with an unmatched enthusiasm. He attended every Banquet and Achievement Day. “You could always count on Murray to be there for every occasion!” His efforts won both Provincial and Federal recognition. He was a 4-H Provincial Director. He was recognized for his service in 1988 by the Canadian Government. In 2001, he received the Ontario Volunteer Service Award for 25 years of service, and in 2002, he received the Ontario Citizenship Award from the Province.
In 1983, Murray was President of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies A and B Fairs, while Shirley was the President of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (Home Crafts) the following year, a recognition of her dedication to fall fairs. They personally visited many, many fair groups over the years. One of the qualities shared by Shirley and Murray that contributed to their popularity was their ability to applaud the efforts and accomplishments of others. “They always wanted to give people credit for the things they did. One of Shirley’s most coveted honours came in 1991, when she was named Chaperone of the Ambassador to the CNE, chosen from all fair ambassadors in Ontario. She has continued that pleasant duty ever since.
Murray was President of the Kent 4-H Leaders’ Association in 1981 and 1982. In 1981, he chaperoned the International Judging Competition at the Regina Agribition. He chaperoned young people to many destinations, including a 4-H exchange to Alberta and a 4-H Judging Team to the National. He supervised and helped 4-H members with their Queen’s Guinea steers, and was a member of the Queen’s Guinea Committee.
Shirley was born in Middlesex County, the daughter of Howard and Annie Pole. She attended SS 13, Ekfrid Township, then Alvinston Public School and Watford District High School. She graduated from the Chatham Public General School of Nursing in 1958; and when her nursing class celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008, she was still enjoying working in her profession.
The McKerrall’s were always looking for new ideas, and the “Ambassadors” was one of Murray’s best. Shirley would encourage eligible girls to enter the competition for Miss Dresden Exhibition and that was just the beginning. She would help the participants develop poise and personality. One friend said, “She gave them directions on how to be the best that they could be.”
She was passionate about her task and was convinced that the things they learned as “Ambassadors” would stand them in good stead in the years ahead. Having to get up and speak would be beneficial to them in their future life, no matter where it might lead. Above all, she cared about people. “If they needed help, she gave it to them.”
Both Murray and Shirley were also deeply involved in the activities at Lindsay Road United Church. It further showed their commitment to rural life.
Shirley has a sister, Audrey Newell, and a brother, Robert Pole. Murray has a brother, Fred, and four sisters: Kathryn Forsyth, Marilyn McFadden, Eileen Loftus, and Shirley Houston.
Shirley and Murray have made a lasting impact on the lives of hundreds of young people. One said: “They opened my eyes to many possibilities and opportunities. I could never possibly thank them enough.”