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Franklin Irwin

March 29, 1923 — January 1, 2023


David Franklin Irwin (Franklin) died peacefully on January 1st, 2023 at the age of 99. His granddaughter, Sherrie, was with him in his passing, and he is now in the presence of Jesus his Saviour, along with his beloved wife, Doris, brother George, and all those who have gone before. Left behind are Franklin’s four children and (their spouses), Peggy (Ray), Barb (Darrel), Beth Anne (John) and George (Ingrid); 11 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren; his sister Helen May Douglas; Michael Zhang and Jane Xu, his spiritual children; and many more whose lives he touched.

Franklin was a man of deep faith, obedience and ardent loyalty to his Lord. This led him to a life of dangers, hardships as well as exciting adventures. With faith as his anchor, he carried with him a spirit of adventure, generosity to anyone in need, curiosity about anything new, along with a genuine interest in other people.

In the year 1923, David Franklin Irwin was born in Danang, Vietnam. He spent his childhood in that country. At the age of 19, after finishing high school, he, his parents, and sister Helen May, along with a group of other missionaries and ex-pats, were interned in a WWII French Internment camp (later to become a Japanese camp) in southern Vietnam. During his time in the camp, he helped teach the children there, all the while keeping track of what was happening in the outside world by listening to the camp doctor's clandestine radio system. Franklin and the group managed their lives as well as they could – they even took to raising turkeys to contribute to the food supply. At the end of the war in 1945, the family was able to get to Saigon, from where they travelled by ship to England and on to Canada.

Franklin attended Nyack College in New York State. There he met his wife-to-be, Doris Derk. After college, he was sent to Barrhead in northern Alberta, where he served as pastor of a small rural church for two years. Though raised in tropical Vietnam, Franklin remembered fondly in later years the cold, the snow, and the adventures bestowed by life in a small cabin and travel via horseback. His primary motivation, as always, was service to Christ, which enabled him to embrace every situation he found himself in. He experienced his stay in the north as a fresh encounter to be cherished rather than as a trial to be withstood. This spirit of adventure was a key part of who he was and remained with him throughout his life.

In 1952, Franklin returned to Vietnam as a missionary. Doris joined him a year later; they married and had their four children. In early 1968, Franklin was serving as Field Chairman when the Tet Offensive erupted – a key turning point in the Vietnam war. Later, in 1975, Franklin and Doris were in New York on a year’s furlough when Vietnam fell. Franklin left for Saigon to help evacuate Vietnamese nationals. The flight there was unable to land so he was taken to Guam where he worked with the US military to process thousands of Vietnamese refugees. Later, being Canadian, he was made a temporary chaplain in the US Army and continued working with Vietnamese refugees in Pennsylvania. Then, in 1978, Franklin and Doris along with their youngest children, Beth Anne and George, went to the Philippines to minister. There, he was elected Field Director, before finishing the requisite language study.

When Franklin and Doris retired to Toronto they continued their work with the Filipino church. Later, in 2001, they began their evangelistic ministry among a large group of new immigrants from China and won a number of them to the Lord. After Doris passed away in 2005, the Lord continued to work through Franklin in the Chinese ministry. In 2007, the Lord used him to establish a Chinese house church; he preached weekly sermons and taught weekly men’s bible study class up until 2021, when at the age of 98, the Lord decided to release him from his lifetime service to His Lord and Savior. Franklin told his sister Helen May: "God hasn't given me any more sermons".

Having lived a life full of service and adventure, for the last couple of years, Franklin’s life narrowed dramatically. During this time he was lovingly supported by his family, his friends, and his Chinese church family.

As well, special thanks are due the Palliative Care Team (Karen, Dana and Dr. Li) from North York General Hospital, who provided such good care of him in his own home during the past year.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Scott Mission in Toronto, the Palliative Care Unit of North York Hospital , or another charity of your choice.

A memorial service will be held at Bridletowne Park / New Horizon Church (2300 Bridletowne Circle | Scarborough | Ontario | M1W 2L2 | Canada) at 1:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-5) on Saturday January 14th, 2023. All are welcome to attend. Those who cannot attend in person, can view the live stream, by visiting this link via computer or smartphone:

To send flowers to the family in memory of Franklin Irwin, please visit our flower store.


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