Jun 27, 1965 - Nov 06, 2019
Martin Gerrits passed away peacefully at sunset on November 6, 2019, with his wife Danika Painter and children Etta and Vaughn Gerrits at his side. His passing followed a five-year illness with brain cancer. Despite the difficulties of his diagnosis, he remained positive through treatments with radiation, several rounds of chemotherapy, and three awake brain surgeries.
Martin was born June 27, 1965 in Ajax, Ontario, to Murray and Mary Gerrits. He spent his youth exploring along the shores and marshes of Lake Ontario with his brothers and sisters Theo (Marg), Mary (Dave Robinet), Phil (MaryAnn), John (Jenny), Betty (Tom Garrity), Pete, Frank (Joanne), and Murray. His childhood adventures instilled a lifelong curiosity, love of learning, and connection to nature. As the youngest in the family, he also had happy memories of time spent with his mother, watching and learning from her.
After graduating from Ajax High School, Martin was the first in his family to attend university. The love of his family gave him the confidence to strike out and pursue his interests. He ultimately earned a BSc and MSc in Marine Biology from the University of Guelph and PhD in Biology from Arizona State University.
As a scientist, Martin was known for his focus, determination, patience, and creativity in the lab. Doing fieldwork was a joy for him, too, making scuba diving excursions for research and teaching purposes in the Arctic and New Brunswick. Martin’s science career eventually took him to Ottawa, where he worked for 11 years as a toxicologist at the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and developed a reputation there for his thorough and careful critical analysis.
While he was passionate about science, he loved to seek out and dig into new subjects and ideas, from igloo building methods to art history and space exploration. Martin always said if he had the chance to go back to school, he would study a whole new field because everything interested him.
But Martin’s connection with the outdoors was always particularly special to him. If you went for a walk with him he would point out plants and animals and would have stories and facts to share about them. He loved swimming, paddling, and camping, starting with the Ajax High School Outers Club and continuing with beloved annual camping trips with family and friends. Martin was also a serious runner who loved training with friends on his lunch breaks. He cycled to work every day, on weekends with family, and on cycling trips in France and Austria with Danika. Martin also felt a strong responsibility to protect the environment he loved so much, and tried to pass that value along to others.
Many remember Martin for his kindness, gentleness, and good humour. He was a good listener and loved helping and teaching others. In recent years, he enjoyed reconnecting with many old friends from his days in Ajax, Guelph, and Arizona. Anyone who spent time with Martin heard his constant jokes, and he was always looking for a connection that could spark a pun. Right up to the last day of his life, he couldn’t resist the chance to try to get a laugh.
Most importantly, Martin said that despite his many accomplishments, his connections to his family and the relationships he had with his family and friends held much more meaning for him. Even though he moved away from the Gerrits home base, he stayed close to his parents and all of his siblings. Martin’s love was a steady and unconditional presence in all of his family members’ lives. Martin and Danika were soul mates, and with their kids Etta and Vaughn they created an exceptionally close family.
A celebration of life will be held in Ottawa on his birthday, June 27, 2020. Those wishing to make a donation in his memory are encouraged to donate to any charity close to the donor’s heart.
Our youngest brother has left us with so many wonderful memories to hold onto for a very long time. Danika, Etta and Vaughn you were so strong and brave right to the end. Our family can’t thank you enough for all you did to care for Martin when he got sick. Your Obituary is a work of art to be cherished. So many wonderful things that he did in his short life. Our hearts are breaking and we miss him so much already. We love you little brother, forever and ever. XOXO
It was Davina who first gave me the sad news that Martin’s illness had overtaken him and that he passed away. I always heard about you and Martin from Davina and often heard how difficult the last years were for him and for you as his caregiver. After reading his obituary, I realize even more what an outstanding human being he was.
Paul and I send our deep condolences to your and the family for your loss.
Not only did I admire Martin for his positivity, intelligence and strong work ethic but I will long remember his courage, kindness and gentle spirit. He brought out the best in people and touched the lives of many.
My thoughts are with all of those who cared for Martin.
Beautiful obituary. Martin was a work colleague who could only be described with kind words. He is dearly missed already. My condolences to all his friends and family.
Dear Danika and family,
I’m so sorry for your loss. Your courage and dedication to Martin through these difficult years is a testament to the depth of your love and commitment to each other.
My his memory be a blessing.
As his former Director General and colleague, I had the great pleasure working with him. In addition to his professionalism, he was always there to ensure that the working environment constantly stayed positive. He did not let his illness to take over his work. He will be missed by his friends and colleagues.
With deepest sympathy and God bless!
I am sharing in sadness as we remember Martin. I hope that Danika, Etta, and Vaughn feel surrounded by love from the many people that miss him.
With my deepest sympathy and holding you close in my thoughts,
So sorry to hear my dear colleague and friend Martin’s passing. Will him dearly. My sincerest condolences to his dear wife Danika, his children Etta & Vaughn. Rest In Peace my friend,