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Memorable Manitobans: Merrill Bruce Whitehead (1913-1988)

Chemist, municipal official, community activist.

Born at Winnipeg on 16 June 1913, son of Clarence Victor Whitehead (c1886-1947) and Alice Lobley (c1894-1980), he worked as an Assistant Chemist (1936-1946) at Canada Cement at Fort Whyte, before taking the position of Chief Chemist (1946-1949) at Cementos de Chihuahua, Mexico. He returned to Winnipeg as Assistant Chemist (1949-1952) with the National Testing Laboratories and went on to be a Senior Member of the Chemical Institute of Canada, working as a Research Chemist (1952-1956) for Pembina Mountain Clays at Winnipeg. He later joined the Materials and Research Branch of the Provincial Highways Department (1956-1978), after which he retired.

He lived in North Kildonan where he served as Councillor (1957-1964) and, following the death of Mayor John Dickson, was Acting Mayor of North Kildonan from January to March 1962, when Jack Lawrence Pearce was elected. He would later serve as Deputy Mayor (1963-?).

As chief of night school teachers and three-year President of the Latin American Institute, he taught Spanish at Kelvin High School in preparation for Winnipeg’s unsuccessful bid to host the 1963 Pan American Games. He contributed to a successful bid for the 1967 Games, during which he served as Chairman of its Languages Services Committee. He acted as an envoy in Winnipeg to the United Nations and engaged in Spanish language translation work for Winnipeg businesses. A music enthusiast, he performed with the Winnipeg Grenadier Band (1934) and various military orchestras (?-1946). He was also President and violinist with of the Winnipeg “Pops” Orchestra (1962-1988). In 1986, he formed a senior mens’ barbershop style vocalist chorus.

He was twice married, to his first wife Susan at St. Andrews on 7 October 1939. The couple had three children. The couple divorced in 1972 and he later married his second wife Beth.

He died at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital on 10 October 1988 and was buried in Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens.


Obituary [Clarence Whitehead], Winnipeg Free Press, 6 August 1947, page 17.

[Photo caption], Winnipeg Free Press, 21 March 1959, page 18.

“Acclamations in East and West St. Paul,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 October 1959, page 21.

“North Kildonan,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 October 1961, page 3.

“N. Kildonan swears in 2 Councillors,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 January 1963, page 7.

“Pan-Am amigos,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 March 1964, page 15.

“Spanish for the Pan-Am Games,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 March 1967, page 72.

“Divorces made final,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 September 1972 page 5.

“Musicians play for love of it,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly West Edition 17 January 1988, page 3.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 12 October 1988, page 48.

North Kildonan Council History, 1960-1971, by Jim Smith / MMC Alumni.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 17 July 2016

Memorable Manitobans

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