Unsung hero Murray Babb, a cherished uncle, friend, mentor, and neighbour, quietly impacted many lives through acts of random kindness, generosity, and selfless giving. “His life’s purpose was to help others,” remarked his niece Jan Gidomski. Murray passed away in October 2022, just 12 days before his 81st birthday. When he learned that he had multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer, Murray counted all his blessings and was not afraid to face the end of his journey on earth. He was grateful that he had the privilege of living life fully in the company of loving family, friends, neighbours and sports. Murray enjoyed a modest life with purpose and meaning, intentionally making someone smile every day. He made sure that his passion for making a difference in the Hamilton community would continue beyond his life by including charitable donations in his will.
An Extraordinary Gift
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility of fulfilling Murray’s wishes to donate a large sum of his financial resources to support charitable causes,” shared Rick Lane, lifelong friend and executor of Murray’s will. As a loyal friend in delivering his promise, Rick had the important task of researching local charitable organizations that align with Murray’s values and passion for youth and sports. Empowerment Squared is tremendously grateful to be the recipient of an extraordinary gift of $420,000 to support our sports and recreation and other programming, and the state of the art Babb Ubuntu Athletic Centre, which offers a safe and welcoming space for youth to learn and develop their social confidence, team-building and athletic skills, as well as a sense of belonging. The 5,000 sq ft Centre is located at Empowerment Squared (East) at 26 Arrowsmith Road in Hamilton, ON, Canada and offers activities such as basketball, soccer, badminton, and volleyball, and is used for other purposes such as arts programs, community gatherings, and events.
Celebration of Life
In recognition of this significant gift, on September 22, 2023, friends, family, board members, staff and program participants gathered at Empowerment Squared for a special celebration in honour of Murray and his impactful legacy.
Our talented Executive Director Leo Johnson opened the event with a drumming session and the singing of Oh Canada, infused with an African beat. A delicious feast of El Salvadoran cuisine and drinks, including pupusas, tacos, banana pudding, hibiscus tea and tamarind juice, was served by Chef Gabriela Hernandez, who is being supported by Empowerment Squared’s Chef Mentorship Program in partnership with a local restaurant group The Other Bird. To honour Murray’s love for sports, a friendly game of basketball was enjoyed by all in the Babb Ubuntu Athletic Centre.
The Life of Murray Babb
Although the Empowerment Squared family did not have the opportunity to meet Murray, we certainly got to know him better through stories and reflections shared by his beloved niece Jan Gidomski, and friends Rick Lane, Brian Walker, Greg Almas, and Jay Parlar. The ancestors of the Babb family immigrated to Canada from England in the 18th century and established strong roots in Hamilton, Ontario, particularly in the Westdale community.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Murray spent his entire life in the same childhood home that he inherited from his parents Hager and Edna Babb. A highly respected member of the community, his neighbours and friends saw Murray as “Mayor” of Westdale. He was always ready and willing to help his neighbours, whether they needed a hand in shoveling snow, mowing lawns, weeding gardens or trimming hedges.
“Murray was a man of many gifts: intelligent, athletic, good looking and he was popular. It would not be unusual for someone with those gifts to become self-centred, but that was not Murray,” noted friend Brian Walker.
A valued employee, Murray enjoyed a meaningful career in the accounting department at Stelco. His friends recalled that Murray applied his accounting skills not only to his work, but also to the design of his home to maximize functional spaces and his lifestyle. Friend Jay Parlar reflected on Murray’s extreme practical nature, a gift he possessed that was second to none. When Murray decided to renovate his kitchen, he thoughtfully measured and calculated to ensure that everything and space served their purposes and that nothing would be wasted. True to his extreme practicality, Murray built his bedroom next to the kitchen to maximize space and save time from walking too many steps to get what he needed. Living simply, Murray did not consider it a necessity to include a space for a stove in the renovation of his kitchen. Since he did not enjoy cooking, a microwave was all he needed to prepare his food, which typically consisted of boiled ham and potatoes. Bold flavours and spices were not part of Murray’s palette. His friends recalled that whenever he was offered multiple ice cream choices, Murray would always choose vanilla. His preference for simple tastes and a quiet lifestyle earned him the nickname “Vanilla.”
Murray was a friend to everyone. Those who had the privilege of knowing him considered him the “kindest man” they have ever met. Over his lifetime, he befriended and mentored many youth, using his athletic knowledge and skills to coach and inspire them. A humble man with a big heart, Murray was known for his warm smile and he would often ask those around him an important question inspired by his mother “Have you made someone smile today?”
Murray Babb’s quiet legacy of many smiles, kindness and generosity will live on through Empowerment Squared, impacting many lives of newcomer and racialized youth and families in our community. For this, we are forever grateful. Our deep gratitude to the Babb family and friends for giving us the opportunity to celebrate Murray, honouring an unsung hero who was truly the epitome of ubuntu.