Photo: Ken Charron

Shaun J. McLaughlin – journalist, author, politician, and steward of nature – died unexpectedly on Feb. 16, 2020 in Cozumel, Mexico at the age of 68.

Shaun grew up in Toronto and Sherman Oaks, California, and remained an avid surfer and sometimes beach bum. He graduated from the journalism program at Humber College in 1975 and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Carleton University in 1994.

Given an old typewriter by his father at the age of 13, Shaun took up writing and never stopped. His skills as a scribe were almost unlimited: as a technical writer, he mentored others in the burgeoning Ottawa software scene in the 1980s, then began writing about nature and the environment for mainstream magazines.

An avid history buff, he wrote several works of history on the Patriot War, a conflict that became the stage for a wealth of characters – river pirates, freedom fighters, raiders, and rebels. Shaun had more recently embarked on writing what he called his first literary novel, drawing on his vast travels to construct a complex tale of challenge and redemption.

He met Amelia Ah You, an artist and heritage building conservationist, in 1987. Driven by a common love of the country, they moved to a farm in Ramsay Township and then to Pakenham, where Shaun’s ardent environmentalism compelled him to get involved in local politics. In 2010, he won a seat on municipal council, and in 2014 was elected mayor of Mississippi Mills.

Shaun could speak with authority about almost anything. His knowledge of the natural world, in particular, was deep and practical. He knew the history of every tree on the beloved domain he shared with Amelia. He brought formidable energy to caring for and improving the property, restoring the massive barn, designing and building a cantilevered tree house, and constructing a writer’s cabin. And he never stopped exploring: after he happened upon a rare orchid in a shady spot, he built a tiny enclosure to protect it.

Earning a black belt in Tae-kwon-do in 2005 at age 53, Shaun set out to prove, in his words, that “old guys can kick ass.” Uncompromising, inquisitive, engaging, and caring, Shaun did, indeed, kick ass, sharing his lust for life with everyone he knew.

Shaun is survived by his wife Amelia Ah You, his brothers Michael (Susan) and Jeff (Jasmine), and sister Erin McLaughlin-Jenkins. In addition to his many friends, he also leaves behind his nephew Kealan McLaughlin, his aunt Audrey McLaughlin, and many cousins.

A celebration of Shaun’s life will be held at the Almonte Old Town Hall on March 15, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Donations made in Shaun’s memory to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust and Ottawa Mission are greatly appreciated.