UPDATE: Huron County Council, Town of Goderich remembers Goderich Mayor

John Grace, Mayor of Goderich. (Image submitted by the Grace family.

Police have released details of an accident that claimed the life of Goderich Mayor John Grace.

The OPP confirm Grace died in a boating incident on Lake Saint Joseph, south of Pickle Lake in northwestern Ontario. The area is north of Thunder Bay.

Police say a barge was transporting fuel and capsized late Tuesday morning.

A moment of silence was held for Grace ahead of Wednesday’s Huron County Council meeting.

“It is my understanding that there has been an accident and details have not yet been released to the public,” stated Warden Glen McNeil at the start of the meeting. “Our thoughts are with the Grace family, the Town of Goderich and council and the administration of the Town of Goderich.”

Grace, was involved in the tourism industry for over 30 years, and was first elected to Town Council as a councillor in 1998. He then served as Deputy Mayor from 2007-2014.

In 2018, he ran for mayor and won that election and had recently announced he was going to run again in the upcoming fall municipal election this year.

Grace was also a part of many committees in the community including as Vice-Chair of the Capital Fundraising Campaign for the Medical Centre from 2006 to 2008 and the Maitland Recreation Centre Building Committee.

Grace and his family also ran the ‘Old Post Lodge’ in Pickle Lake, north of Thunder Bay, for many years.

The Town of Goderich issued the following statement:

“Along with the community, Town Council and staff are mourning the loss of our Mayor and friend John C. Grace. John served as Councillor and Deputy Mayor for 17 years and as Mayor from 2018 to present.

The Town acknowledges John’s devotion and contributions to the Town of Goderich. John enhanced the fabric of the Town and enriched the lives of many, far beyond our community.
John was committed to his family and the community. He was a man of the people through and through.

John was a strong leader and decision maker, who worked tirelessly for the Town of Goderich. John helped to navigate the community through the 2011 F3 Tornado and the rebuilding of the downtown, and most recently provided leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic, along with many other challenges that Goderich has faced. He was integral in so many projects and initiatives, including the Maitland Recreation Centre and the Maitland Valley Medical Centre, and was passionate on environmental and social issues. We acknowledge his immense contributions, his admirable personality, and his ability to connect and share commonality with so many.

John was a bright light, and he will be dearly missed.

Our sincere condolences go out to John’s wife Wendy, their three boys, daughter-in-law, and grandson.”

Compass Minerals also offered their condolences in a statement:

“All of us at Compass Minerals are saddened to learn of the untimely death of Mayor John Grace. A tireless advocate for the Town of Goderich, he will be remembered as a true servant leader who cared deeply for his community. We send our sincere condolences to his family and all who loved him.”

Doderich Deputy Mayor, Myles Murdock, says Grace served for 21 years in public life. Murdock says he left his mark all over the town, and he adds many people have their own specific memory of what stands out for them, and Murdock has a few.

“Thinking in terms of John’s accomplishments, I think of things like the Maitland Rec Centre and what that’s meant to our ability to attract healthcare workers. I mean that was huge. And then the Maitland Valley Medical Centre was another feather in his cap. The other thing is, Deb Shewfelt gave him the reins to look after a post-tornado re-build and when you think about how quickly that re-build was done. We looked pretty new in two years time. That was a stunning accomplishment.”

Murdock says John Grace, who was 64, simply had a way of getting things done and that will be missed.

The Chair for the Chamber of Commerce for Goderich, Central and North Huron says John Grace was always a huge supporter of the business community in Goderich. And Jennifer Verdam-Woodward says he was also a strong supporter of the Chamber.

“He was always willing to come to our Business After Five’s. We did the Mayor’s Luncheon. Over COVID, we had a lot virtual events and he really had some great ideas about how to market and change the Mayor’s Luncheon so that we could still reach as many people as possible.”

Verdam-Woodward says one of things they appreciated about John Grace was that he had a way of getting things done and he didn’t give up until he had achieved what he set out to do.

**With files from Bob Montgomery**