Several days before he passed, Haliburton’s Lighthouse Pentecostal Church pastor Doug Ross was doing what he loved: sharing the word of God.
Though the pandemic meant he had to do it from a basement via live stream, he continued to reach out to his community, and they watched. His wife, Kim Ross, said he often attracted more than 100 viewers, with people tuning in from outside Haliburton.
“I’m a preacher that preaches about the love of Jesus Christ,” Ross said in his final sermon. “Sometimes people accuse me of preaching about that too much, but can you preach about the love of Christ too much? I don’t think you can.”
Ross’s family and community are mourning his loss after he died July 29 at the age of 65. The long-time pastor, businessman and school board trustee is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren and three greatgrandchildren.
Kim Ross described him as a very outgoing person who touched the lives of many people.
“Had a fantastic sense of humour. I think pretty much anywhere he went, he would just kind of brighten up,” Ross said.
Ross said her husband grew up poor, raised by a single mother. During his last sermon, the pastor described himself as a lost, “nasty person” in his youth.
“All I could think of was survival,” Ross said. “I said ‘God, there must be more to life than this. If that’s what life is really like, it’s really not worth living.’ Within a matter of two days, God sent somebody to talk to me about him and share Jesus Christ with me. Within less than a week, I gave my heart to Jesus Christ.”
That person was a pastor, Kim Ross said, who convinced the then 18-yearold to come to church, where he was moved. She said they met at a camp near his home in New Brunswick soon afterward and started a whirlwind romance.
They originally met in August and were married by February of next year as teenagers.
“We only knew each other a short time,” she said. “But we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our life together.”
The two started a family in Ontario. While Doug Ross began working as a pastor in Oshawa, he soon started selling cars. They moved to Whitby and after going through a difficult financial crunch, they got into the food business.
The family began selling peanut brittle made with an old family recipe. A successful Christmas season run at Zellers got them a recurring business. It would become Granny Williams, a confectionery manufacturing business that would go for 30 years, operating at many Zellers locations.
They also opened a café in downtown Oshawa, which Ross said was an important hotspot in the city. While selling cars, her husband also struck a friendship with famed Toronto Maple Leaf Eddie Shack. That eventually led to him owning two restaurants under the Eddie Shack’s Donuts and Snacks brand.
She said Shack would often invite Ross to hang out with other Leafs alumni at the famed Hot Stove Lounge and when pictures for autographs would go around, Shack insisted Ross sign it.
“People always wondered who this guy is,” Ross said. “There was a lot of laughs with Eddie Shack.”
Ross was also civically engaged, acting as a trustee for 12 years with the Durham District School Board. One of his colleagues, Patty Bowman, described his dedication to his constituents during Ross’s celebration of life Aug. 7. She also recounted his efforts in working through the implementation of Canada’s first modified school-year system, balancing out holidays throughout the year.
“He was tenacious about sitting down across the room … trying to figure out where we could find our common ground and he would never give up,” Bowman said. “Because when we agreed, everything shifted and moved in our communities and we saw it happen.”
His passion for pastorship remained central in his life. Kim Ross described his evangelist-style that moved a lot of people.
“He had such a love for people, and he has so much patience with people,” Ross said. “He had so much energy for life. He loved God with all his heart.”
But his health suffered with a stroke and though he survived, she said it was a difficult, year-long recovery. They chose a slower life after that, moving to Fenelon Falls and eventually Haliburton to take on pastorship at the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in 2012.
He volunteered for various boards and the local Rotary Club. Kim Ross said he has touched the lives of so many people, with hundreds of messages flooding in recent days about all the good he did.
“It’s been a fascinating life,” Ross said. “He didn’t actually just live 64 years, he lived 80 years or more because of the amount of living that he did.”
Despite everything the pastor achieved, in his last sermon, he downplayed it compared to what was most important to him.
“I don’t think I’ve done a lot of great things in life. I’ve had some small accomplishments,” Ross said. “The most precious thing that I have in my life is that Jesus Christ loved me.”