The room at the Charlottetown Farm Centre fell silent when Barbara Munves began to sing Wednesday night.
All eyes turned to her near the end of a tribute ceremony for her husband, Jim, held at the centre. While Jim had spoken about his deep love for his wife many times to The Guardian, it was clear during the ceremony that the feeling was mutual.
At the end of the evening, Barbara, who has dementia and went into long-term care following Jim’s death in August, started singing one of the many peace songs Jim enjoyed.
She then began speaking fondly of her husband.
“I loved him,” she told the group of about 20 friends and family members who had gathered at the centre to honour the Charlottetown peace activist.
Jim became known to many Islanders after fighting the province in court earlier this year for Barbara to be returned home after an emergency intervention order. The two parties eventually came to an agreement that saw the couple spend one final summer together in their Charlottetown home before Jim’s death.
While the love for his wife was acknowledged, much of the ceremony saw Jim’s friends share their personal stories while also focusing on the activism they admired him for.
Jim, who was Jewish, earned a Purple Heart during the Second World War before starting a life of peace activism that brought him from his home of New York City to P.E.I.
He was a member of the activist group Kairos and was friends with the well-known Berrigan Brothers, while also travelling the world through freelance writing. He wrote for The New Yorker and published several books before founding his own publishing house in P.E.I. to continue his advocacy on local issues.
David MacKay, one of the event’s organizers who knew Jim through the Island Peace Committee, started the evening off by playing a peace video he and Jim previously screened to a group at Murphy’s Community Centre.
“His spirit lives on through the work he’s done,” said MacKay. “The best way to commemorate his life is by doing what he did.”
Jim was a founding member of the weekly peace vigils held for years at the Charlottetown cenotaph every Friday and was instrumental in starting the Hiroshima Commemorative on P.E.I.
However, Jim’s activism was not limited to peace advocacy.
He and Barbara had previously donated land along the Morell River to the Island Nature Trust, and many of the couple’s friends said Charlottetown’s transit service wouldn’t be what it is now without Jim’s early advocacy.
“He was very persistent, and social justice was a big part of what he did,” said MacKay. “His dream was to have Islandwide public transit.”
Jim’s activism continued up until his death. Four days before he died, he had submitted a letter to the editor to The Guardian.
Following Jim’s death, his friend, Fr. Phil Callaghan, described him as being a spiritually strong man who was dedicated to global unity.
Callaghan also said that Jim had been determined to re-unite with his wife, despite the physical toll it was taking on him.
“Jim and his determination to be with Barb, it’s a beautiful love story,” said Callaghan. “And his love of the universe was just a continuation of that.”