Dr. William James Jr. Kirwin

January 23, 1925 to August 4, 2016


Passed away peacefully at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home on August 4, 2016, age 91 years. Predeceased by his father and mother, William J. and Mary C.Kirwin of Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A. He is survived by his sister Virginia K. Patch, of San Diego, California, niece Marianne G. Patch, also of San Diego, his nephew Keith D. Patch, of Lexington, Massachusetts, and Keith’s sons, Ryan J., Grant W., Taylor C., and Casey J. Patch. Born in Rhode Island,  Bill excelled in anything academic, from his public school education in Rhode Island to his Ph. D. Studies in English Language studies at the University of Chicago in 1954.  During World War ll, he spent 2 1/2 years in the U.S. Army Engineers, participating in the Battle of the Bulge, and fighting his way across Europe to Germany. In 1959, William received an appointment at Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland in the Department of English Language and Literature, where he remained an active professor and then an emeritus professor  until his illness in 2012.  He will be remembered for his considerable contributions to the preservation of the language heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador. He developed the first Memorial programs in English Linguistics and research on the English dialects of the province, as well as the creation of the Memorial’s English Language Research Centre. Among many other achievements, he was a driving force behind and coeditor of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English  and founding coeditor of the journal of Newfoundland  and Labrador Studies. His love of music flourished from his days in school where he played the bass viol and trombone. He was one of the founding members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and an avid supporter of the MUN Film Society. A special thank you to his wonderful caregivers at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home, as well as Randy McCormack and Bob Hollett, loyal friends of 35 years.  He will be greatly missed by many members of the University community, students, staff and faculty. To pay tribute to his life’s work and contribution to the province, colleagues and friends may visit Carnell’s Funeral Home 329 Freshwater Rd. on Sunday August 7, 2016 from 2-4 p.m. Donations in his memory may be made to a charity of one’s choice. To send a message of condolence or to sign the memorial guest book please visit www.carnells.com



2-4 p.m. on August 7, 2016

Carnell’s Funeral Home
329 Freshwater Road
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I was fortunate enough to take an undergraduate course from Dr. Kirwin many years ago. A fierce intellect and a wonderful teacher. His was a life well lived.

I am sorry to hear about the loss of one who made such a great contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador. I had the pleasure of being in Dr. Kirwin’s linguistic courses in the early 70s. His classes were always interesting and he taught us much about ourselves and our culture that we did not see or hear.

I am just now reading of Dr. Kirwin’s passing. We met a few years ago when he would submit work for printing here at MUN Printing Services. Our conversations, though brief, were interesting and inspiring. He was a perfectionist and a quiet patient man. He was happy to walk back and forth from the Arts Building to the Ingstad Building to see his work in proofs until it was to his liking. I would always ask “would you prefer I have this delivered over to you?”, but he enjoyed the walk. He amazed me! I will never forget Dr. Kirwin. We could all learn a lot from people like him. After all, it was he who taught me how to retrieve work from a floppy disk, which of course was all he used.
God bless him.

Peggy Chafe
Printing Services, MUN

So sorry for your loss!! We knew Bill for many years. We spent alot of time together hiking, playing pool, gardening, and exploring Newfoundland. I learned from Bill over the years. He will be missed deeply……Rest easy my friend…..Mike, Michelle, and Theresa

My sincere condolences on the passing of Dr. Kirwin. I worked for Dr. Kirwin & Dr. Story inputting the data for the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. It was a great pleasure and an honor to work for him. He was a gentle, caring person and will be sadly missed.

Dr. Kirwin was an exceptional and inspiring professor at MUN when I was an undergraduate in the 1970’s. It was obvious to all that he enjoyed his work very much and he demonstrated great teaching skill as he related to individual students. I was fortunate to be in two of his courses and I have the fondest memories. And I am forever grateful to him for all,I learned.

So sorry for your loss! Dr. Kirwin was my linguistics prof at MUN and made dialects so interesting for the entire class. All you had to do was speak and he knew what part of the island you were from! Please accept my sincere condolences.