Merlin Nunn

Passed 05/21/2020


Obituary For Merlin Nunn

The Honourable (retired) Justice D. Merlin Nunn

The Honourable (retired) Justice D. Merlin Nunn passed away on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at the age of 89. Born in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, he was the son of the late Bruce Clement and Florence (Merlin) Nunn.

Merlin (affectionally called Pipe or Piper) attended school in Whitney Pier at Holy Redeemer Boys’ School and Sydney Academy. Following High School, he attended university at the age of 15, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree (1950) and a Bachelor of Education degree (1952) from St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish. He taught school in Bowsman Manitoba for two years before entering Dalhousie Law School. While teaching in Manitoba he was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame for baseball. Upon graduating in first place from Dalhousie with a Bachelor of Laws in 1957, he received the Ford Foundation Scholarship to attend Harvard University where he received a Master of Laws Degree in 1958.

In 1960, Merlin worked as a lecturer in judicial remedies, commercial law, labour law, and labour relations at Dalhousie Law School. Teaching at Dalhousie would continue to be a part of his life for the next decade.

At the same time, in 1960, Merlin joined the law firm of Rutledge, MacKeigan, Cragg and Downie. In 1967 he was accepted into partnership at the firm and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1972. In 1973 he became a senior partner at Cox, Downie, Nunn, and Goodfellow.

In 1978 he was appointed as the first Chairman of the Nova Scotia Civil Service Employee Relations Board and continued to be reappointed annually until his appointment as a Judge. In addition to this appointment, Merlin was chosen as chairman or as single arbitrator in a significant number of Nova Scotia arbitration cases.

In 1982 Justice Minister Jean Chretien announced the appointment of D. Merlin Nunn, Q.C. as a Judge of the Trial Division for the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

In 1997, Justice Nunn was appointed Conflict of Interest Commissioner for the Province of Nova Scotia. Merlin held the position for 21 years, making him the longest serving Conflict of Interest Commissioner in the history of Nova Scotia.

In 2005, the Nova Scotia government appointed the Honourable (retired) Justice D. Merlin Nunn as the Commissioner of a public inquiry. This examined the events of October 14, 2004, in which Theresa McEvoy, a 52-year-old teacher's aide and mother of three boys, was killed when the car she was traveling in was broadsided by another vehicle driven by a serial youth offender.

Subsequently named the Nunn Commission, the investigation and resulting report was a landmark public inquiry into Canada's youth criminal justice system. The Government of Nova Scotia accepted all of the Commissioner's recommendations and published an official response. The Nunn Commission's findings have also been cited as a significant factor in changes to Canadian Law dealing with young offenders.

Throughout his career, Merlin was actively involved in community, social, and church organizations. He served on the Board of Directors for the Home of the Guardian Angels; Sacred Heart School of Halifax; and the Senior Citizens’ Housing Corporation. Later in his life, Merlin worked with parishioners of Saint Patrick's Church, Halifax and the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia in saving the church that was built in the 1880s by Irish immigrants.

He was a member of the Canadian Bar Association; Member and Council Member of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society; Member of Discipline Committee; Chairman of Law School Liaison Committee; Chairman of Judges Liaison Committee; Director of the Canadian Judges Conference and President from 1989-1990.

For over 40 years the Nunn family has spent their summers at their home in Chester, N.S. where sailing, golf and tennis were a major part of everyday life.

Merlin is survived by his beloved wife of 61 years, Joan (Gildersleeve) (formerly Boston, Mass.); children: Mary (Andrew Comstock), Alberta; Caroline Nunn, Chester, N.S.; Bruce (Toni Thomas), Halifax; Douglas (Carole-Anne MacKinnon), Massachusetts; 10 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren. Also surviving is his sister, Betty Lou Simpson, Sydney; sister-in-law, Mary MacLellan, Antigonish; many nieces and nephews.

Cremation has taken place. Memorial service to be held at a later date.

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  • 05/30/2020

    Joan, I was deeply saddened to learn from Mary that your esteemed husband recently left your side to begin his ascent to a hallowed place where men and women of impeccable character gather. I pray that your sorrow will quickly fade and that memories of the best moments you spent together will become ever more vivid and comforting. It is always a painful experience to lose the physical presence of a loved one, especially one with whom you have shared a long and prosperous life. But you have been tremendously blessed to have been the one whose presence always brought a twinkle to Merlin's eye and whose support and adoration enabled him to become a loving father of four as well as a revered member of the Nova Scotia judiciary. Thank you to you and your late husband for making me feel welcome in your busy household on MacLeod Dr. and inviting me and my husband and daughter to Chester when Mary and Andy were visiting a few years ago. Love to you, Mary, Caroline, Bruce and Douglas

  • 05/30/2020

    We extend our sympathy to the Nunn family on the passing of a wonderful, honourable, and distinguished man. May the many heart warming memories of your loved one sustain you at this time of loss. Sincerely, Valerie McKinnon and Coreen Stoliar Daughters of Marguerite McKinnon Merlin

  • 05/27/2020

    Joan and family,Please accept sincerest condolences from Karen and me.Merlin was such a wonderful gift to our community, our Province and Canada. Thank you for sharing so much of his time with us all.For over 45 years I learned from and was lucky to be Merlin's friend. In 1967 when I joined the small group of Labour law practitioners in N.S. Merlin was among the leaders of a talented collection, including Bob Matheson,Frank Covert,Tom MacQuarrie and Hector McInnes. Maybe it was his Whitney Pier background but Merlin was unique among us as equally skilled practicing on the Union or Management side.He just loved the" people" part of out profession.He was so "unfull of himself" that no-one knew that his stood first in his graduating class at Law School or that he was a scholarship student at Harvard Law. With his razor sharp mind and his people skills it should be no surprise that he was outstanding counsel but also went onto be a great Justice of our Supreme Court,Nova Scotia's longest serving as Conflict of Interests and was chosen by Canadian Judges to lead them. His real love came to the fore however when we would chat at arbitrations about his favourite time spent with his family in Chester.We were all made more human by our contact with Merlin. Sincerely, Donald McDougall Q.C.

  • 05/26/2020

    Joan and family, we are very sorry to learn of Judge Nunn's passing. It was an honour to know him and a pleasure to chat with him over the years as we took care care of your Chester property for many years. He will surely be missed by many. Sincerely, Elaine Collicutt and Staff.

  • 05/26/2020

    We are saddened to read of Piper's death. We have great memories of our days living in the "south end" and the New Years' moveable feasts. I'm sure Caroline will remember baby sitting our 3 on Emscote Drive. We also had many Whitney Pier relatives and could compare notes with Merlin. His distinguished career was more than matched by his sterling human qualities. Our condolences to you all....Allan and Lorna MacDonald and Katriona, Sara and Neil.

  • 05/26/2020

    To The Nunn Family sorry for your Loss, Merlin was our Lawyer for the Halifax Police Association, back in the 60's and 70's when we took over the old Northwest Arm Boat Club, in the later years I would see him at Tim's on the Kearney Lake Rd. he was a good friend always had time to talk, John

  • 05/26/2020

    Dear Joan & family, We offer our sincere condolences on the loss of your wonderful Husband & Father. We dearly enjoyed our conversations with you both at many professional functions over the many years that Doug and Merlin were colleagues. Doug had a high regard for Merlin and considered him a great mentor and Doug always appreciated his "open door" policy at the firm. May the passage of time and your many wonderful memories help ease your sadness at this time. We send our virtual hugs & love to all of you. Sincerely, Donna & Doug

  • 05/25/2020

    Dear Joan and family, We were so sad to hear of Merlin's passing. He has woven in and out of our lives for nearly 50 years, and I guess we thought he would always be there. The mark he left is a great one and we will never forget the fond memories we have of this extraordinary man. We send our heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Lee and Tink Hopkins

  • 05/25/2020

    Joan,Mary,Caroline,Bruce, Douglas and Families . So very sorry for the loss of your Loved one.It was at your place that I got to know you all and my first place to stay so far away from my home.I often think of you all. I am sure you will miss your loved one Husband ,Father.and Grandfather very much. Merlin was a great man. Prayers and Love to all. William & Rickey Grover [vanden Heuvel ]

  • 05/25/2020

    Dear Joan and family, Merlin will be missed by you and many more people. Thank you for sharing him with others over many years.... sympathy and prayers, Joan

  • 05/25/2020

    Dear Joan and family: I am so sad to think that another impressive boy from the Pier has reached his final goal of eternity. As they say, "Death is just an interruption of life." Pipe was an incredible person and he certainly achieved the life that God intended him to be. He always made me feel proud to be from the Pier. We will all miss him. I shall keep you and your family in my prayers. I hope to phone you in a few weeks. Take care! Love Dolores

  • 05/25/2020

    To the very large and loving Nunn family. I knew Piper for close to forty years. He was bright, determined, knew his own mind and had his own opinions. Piper had his first heart problem many years ago and often told me how lucky he was to be alive. He told me that for a very long time. He viewed each day as a gift and made the most of it. He was a wonderful husband, father, grampa and great grampa. He was a big contributor to any community he was a part of and he was involved in several. He was as noted in his obituary a member of the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame. He gave me a signed baseball which sits behind me as I write this. He also made excellent cod cakes and served them as often as he could. He was a loving and dedicated husband to Joan. She will miss and so will I as well as everyone who knew him and some that didn't know him but benefited from the law he originated.

  • 05/25/2020

    Hi, Joan, Piper was a member of the Law School class of 1957 with my husband David. Piper and i always said that we were "cousins" because his sister Betty married my first cousin Gordon Simpson. There are very few of the Law School class of 1957 still alive; I cannot think of any. David died June 10th 2009. My three children all live here in Halifax and they are a great comfort to me. Sincerely, Carol Bryson

  • 05/25/2020

    Piper was a classmate of my father in '50 and my uncle in '52. Many great gentlemen graduated in those years and Piper was one of them. A remarkable and noteworthy life well lived. Condolonces to your family from ours. The Gatto family

  • 05/25/2020

    To Joan and the Nunn Family from St. Patrick's Church Community in Halifax. We send our deepest condolences to you on Merlin's passing. You are in our prayers. Michele O'Neill on behalf of the St. Patrick's Community.

  • 05/25/2020

    Joan - Sometimes there are no words. Piper was such an extraordinary man, and left his mark on this city and this world. Jock joins me in sending our sincere condolences and our love.

  • 05/25/2020

    To Joan and family Marius & I extend our sincere sympathies on Merlin's passing. May treasured memories be of comfort to you and your family.

  • 05/25/2020

    My deepest condolences to the entire family. I have very fond memories of my friendship with Caroline during our years at St. Patrick's High School and of time spent at the family home in the south end. It is always heart wrenching to lose a parent. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

  • 05/24/2020

    To the Nunn family , especially to Mary and Caroline. I am not sure if you remember your summer at Harbourview cottages at Smiths cove , Digby County. That summer I worked as the trail rider teacher, you and your father would frequent the barn and we would all go for a "hack". Your dad told me he once saw someone riding and thought to himself he would like to go that someday. You were a very lovely family and I am glad I was able to be part of your special time at Smiths Cove. Melissa Raymond

  • 05/24/2020

    To the Nunn Family, Our parents, Roeska and John Manders, were neighbours of Joan and Merlin on Hood Street in Halifax in the late 1950's. They always spoke very highly of Merlin and had wonderful memories of their early years as neighbours. Although both our parents have passed on, we wanted to send along our sympathies to Joan and her family. Merlin and Joan had attended our Mom's wake and funeral several years ago and it was wonderful to meet them and truly appreciated. Thinking of all of you during this difficult time, The Manders Family (Rick, John and Angela)

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