John Penner

John Penner

Sunday, June 9th, 1929 - Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
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Dr. John L. Penner passed away peacefully in Collingwood July 9th 2019 at the age of 90. Beloved husband of the late Jean S. Penner (McMillan). Loving father of John (Carmyn), James, Elizabeth Inglis (Jeffrey) and Timothy. Cherished grandfather of John, Neill and Andrew Penner, Mae, and Georgiana Penner and Reuel and Yael Inglis. Predeceased by brothers Paul, Ernest, Alfred and Peter, sisters Elizabeth and Helen.

John Leonard Penner was born in Pembina Manitoba on June 9th, 1929, the first son of John and Elizabeth Penner, who emigrated from the Soviet Union to Canada earlier in the decade. The family settled in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, where John spent his youth. Six more children followed; Paul, Ernie, Peter, Alfred, Elizabeth, and Helen, to whom John remained devoted throughout his life.

After earning his Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Manitoba, John began his career teaching for two years at St. Mary’s Parish High School, a one room classroom for grade 10 and 11 students where he taught all subjects except French. John was honored at a class reunion in 2005. John continued with teaching high school for a number of years in Ontario, including in Fort William and Kapuskasing. He met his wife Jean Shirley MacMillan, also a teacher, and they were married in September 1959. Their first three children, John Burns, James Ernest, and Elizabeth Jeanine were born in Kapuskasing,

In 1964 John retired from high school teaching to pursue a career in microbiology research, completing his Master’s degree in 1967, and his Ph.D. in 1970, at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. John and Jean’s fourth child, Timothy Leonard, was born in Kingston in 1965.

Following his appointment as a post-doctoral researcher at Queen’s, John accepted a permanent appointment at the University of Toronto, where he remained for the remainder of his career, serving as Head of the Department of Medical Microbiology in the final years of his tenure. John, Jean and their family settled in Guildwood Village, Scarborough. Following Jean’s death in 2012, John moved to Collingwood to be closer to his daughter, Elizabeth, her husband Jeff Inglis, and their two children.

John had an outstanding career as a researcher in microbiology and immunology.
He authored or co-authored scores of journal articles. In recognition of his achievements, the bacterium Proteus penneri was named in his honour.

John was devoted to his family. He was an avid gardener and enjoyed spending time cultivating his rose bushes. John was also a very capable ‘handy’ man, having learned construction and carpentry skills as a young man on his holidays from university, working with his father and brothers Paul and Ernie on construction projects. One of his projects was ‘finishing’ the basement of the manse of the Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church, then occupied by the Reverend Gordon Beaton, so as to better accommodate Reverend Beaton’s large family, recruiting his two elder sons and some of their friends as unskilled but willing-to-learn assistants. He also made numerous improvements to the family home. John was a charming and provocative dinner companion, very much enjoying lively exchanges, particular on Sunday evenings when guests often joined the family dinner table. Not culinary minded himself, nonetheless he counted as one of his regular achievements the perfectly barbecued T-bone steak.

Summer travels ‘home’ to Manitoba were an annual ritual, taking advantage of every means of transport available, first planes, then trains, then the family automobile. Perhaps nothing shaped the coming of summer more for the family, and expressed John and Jean’s deep devotion to their extended families.

John was the absolute opposite of a snob, having what used to be called the ‘common touch’. He was delighted to engage with servers, store clerks, mechanics, anyone really, often to the quiet trepidation of his children, thinking ‘where is this going? But it always turned out all right in the end, and taught his children lessons about our common humanity, and our necessary civic engagement with others.

John was blessed with an abiding Christian faith. He was an active congregant, and at times served as an Elder, of the Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church over a number of years.

He will be fondly remembered by all who were touched by his generosity, sense of humour, loyalty, and integrity.

Rest in peace.

Funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday July 17, 2019 at St. Andrew’s Maple Cross Presbyterian Church, 1 Caroline St. W in Creemore followed by interment at Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Scarborough at 2:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations to E3 Community Services Collingwood would be appreciated.
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Service Details

  • Service

    Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 | 10:00am
    Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 10:00am
    St. Andrew's Maple Cross Presbyterian Church
    1 Caroline Street West
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Rev. Jeff Inglis
  • Interment

    Resthaven Memorial Gardens
    2700 Kingston Rd
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Reception

    St. Andrew's Maple Cross Presbyterian Church
    1 Caroline Street West
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


Donations are being accepted for: E3 (EDUCATE, ENABLE, EMPOWER) COMMUNITY SERVICES INC..


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Dorothea McCallum

Posted at 03:20pm
My condolences to the family. I never met John's family, but John was my Dad's and Mom's (Jack McCallum) best man and he taught me and two of my brothers microbiology at CMCC in Toronto. John and my Dad were boyhood friends. Apparently John had a really long walk to school, which in the Manitoba winter was a freezing experience. John always stopped in at my Dad's home on his way to school and my Grandma, Lily McCallum who was widowed at the time, used to make sure the house was toasty warm and she always had a bowl of hot oatmeal for him to warm up his insides before heading the rest of the way to school. I'm not sure about this, but I also heard that my Grandma, a staunch Presbyterian, is probably responsible for leading John to that church. My Dad treasured their friendship and thought it was really neat that he ended up being our teacher. Again, my thoughts are with the family as you grieve the loss of this great man.

Bruce Beaton

Posted at 12:19am
My sincerest sympathies go out to all of you and your families at this time.
Tim, I remember fondly spending time with you and your family in Guildwood while my Mom and Dad were on their honeymoon and on the Sunday afternoons after that. You and your family made me feel quite at home when I was over.
May God's peace and comfort be with you all. Take care.
Bruce Beaton

Craig Siddall

Posted at 11:45am
John, James, Elizabeth and Tim
Our sympathy, prayers and wishes of peace are with you and your own families as you grieve the passing of your father, father-in-law and grandfather. As captured beautifully in the obituary, you will have many family memories to hold in your hearts as you get through these next days and weeks.
The Siddall family

Bob Strong

Posted at 03:14pm
My sincere condolences on your loss. I pray that memories of happier times will see you through your time of grief!
"God gave us memory so we might enjoy roses in winter."
I am a respected researcher of Mennonite genealogy, and would like to connect your loved one to his/your family and ancestry, which I am unable to do fully given the information in his obituary. My project contains over 495,000 individuals, including nearly 10,000 Penners, (among them both my maternal and paternal great-grandmothers), but major sources show few details about John, his siblings or their families. Please contact me at an appropriate time if you are willing to share/exchange details. Thank you. All information about living individuals is suppressed to protect your/their privacy.

Phil Sherman

Posted at 02:47pm
John Penner was a remarkable leader, terrific mentor, kind friend, and beloved colleague during the years when he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Microbiology which was then based in the FitzGerald Building at the University of Toronto.
I will forever cherish the kindness, support, and guidance that he provided.
Wishing his family support and best wishes during this time of loss . . .
Philip Sherman, MD, FRCPC
Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto

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