Padre Dennis Dwyer at the RMR’s Centennial banquet, 01 November 2014

Westmount, Quebec – 13 October 2023: The RMR Foundation regrets to announce the death of Major (retired) Dennis Dwyer, CD, aged 87-years old. He served as the Regiment’s padre throughout the 1980’s and then as Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel from 1999 – 2004. He had also been a member of the RMR Foundation.

Memorial service will be held at 13h00 on Saturday 04 November 2023

at the Bethel United Church Rideau Ferry,

1500 Rideau Ferry Rd, Perth, ON K7H 3C7

Dwyer as a young naval officer

Dennis grew up in Montreal and graduated from McGill University’s School of Commerce in 1959.  He worked for Greenshields in retail and institutional sales moving into sales management.  He also served as a Cadet, Chief Cadet Captain and officer in the Royal Canadian Navy (Reserve) from 1955-1964.  In 1967, he assisted in forming a firm of financial and investment counsel and became a managing partner.  In 1981, Dennis was ordained a Minister in the United Church of Canada and served in parish ministry for 11 years in Quebec.  During this time he rejoined the Canadian Forces (Reserves) as Padre and was promoted Major and awarded the CD.  In addition, he was a co-host on a religious radio and a TV programs.  Dennis also served in other areas of the United Church: Chairman of Finance of M & O Conference, a member of The Church Council on Justice and Corrections, Governor of United Theological College of McGill University, and as founding Spiritual Director of the Montreal United Church Cursillo.

Dennis retired from parish ministry and from the Reserves in 1991/92 in order to devote his full time to the prevention of violent behaviour through teaching and practicing various forms of dispute resolution.  He was a founding partner in The D & L Freedom Group Inc. which developed Peer Mediation Programs used in Quebec schools and workshops for adults in corporations and institutions. 

Until his retirement in 2001, Dennis’s personal practice as a mediator primarily focused on resolving disputes in family-owned enterprises.  In 1999, he was appointed Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of The Royal Montreal Regiment.  Dennis has been a guest lecturer at McGill, a theme speaker, panelist, and moderator and presenter at The CAFE National Symposium for Families in Business.  For his services to entrepreneurship he was named Dobson Fellow of McGill University in 2004, the same year that his mandate as Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the RMR ended.  

Predeceased by his wife, Sue, of 50+ years marriage, they had three children together, and had retired to Perth, Ontario. 

Padre Dennis Dwyer in the field, circa 1990, Valcartier, Quebec.

Alan Hustak, wrote of Reverend Dennis Dwyer in 2014:

An  avuncular United Church minister with a  hearty, unconditional warmth about him, Dennis Dwyer was born in Montreal in 1936. He served with the Royal Canadian Navy from 1957-64  when he  retired as a gunnery officer with HMCS Donnacona, Montreal’s naval reserve unit.  He took a commerce degree at McGill University and became what he describes as “a sinfully successful if somewhat unlucky investment banker.”  After a series of business reversals and the failure of the bank that he was involved with, he began going back to church and “started to meet people I used to think were ‘losers’, and I found them engaging, and I began to appreciate that all of those pieces of papers I played with had real people at the end of them.” He became a United Church minister  in 1977 and was the pastor of the Roxboro United Church when Rev. Bill McCarthy, who had served in the RMR, asked him whether he was “tough enough” to  become the regimental chaplain. 

A  practical clergyman with no infantry training, Dwyer accepted the challenge but never let his collar get in the way of common sense.  Padres who merely mouth platitudes, he points out, are generally ignored by the troops.  To be highly regarded they have to serve God by serving in the field.  “Let’s not confuse profanity with spirituality,” said Dwyer, “Military men are perhaps more spiritual than the average man on the street because they know about being broken.  They deal with the notion of killing people. Anyone who has been in the military for more than five years has been through a traumatic experience that puts them in touch with their mortality, with their spirituality. They have a redemptive understanding of their capacity for good and evil.” 

Rev. Dwyer earned his epaulettes within the regiment at Valcartier when he took on a general to defend his men.  The issue was whether or not four padre officer candidates who were on a training exercise should be allowed to carry weapons.  Because they were not yet commissioned as chaplains, Dwyer believed that they should be armed and be treated like any of the other combatants in the field. One of the generals on the base thought otherwise, and demanded that they be stripped of their weapons. “The ensuing  standoff  between the two almost resulted in World War III,” recalls retired Sgt Mike Fitzgerald, who witnessed the heated  exchange. “Generals don’t take crap from anyone; Dwyer doesn’t take crap from anyone either.  He won.” 

Dwyer successfully argued that padres cannot effectively do their job if they are considered to be inferior officers and insisted that they automatically assume equal rank of the person to whom they are speaking in private.  So when a padre talks to a general,  he has the authority of a general.  “What the general public doesn’t often understand, is that there is a whole family ethos about the military that seems to be silly at the time, but ultimately boosts morale,” he said.  

Lest We Forget.

Share your thoughts