Aaron Raymond George Murray was born on Sept. 21, 1992, in St. Catharines, Ont., to Nancy, a stay-at-home mom, and Scott, who worked as a taxi driver. Fourteen months later, Aaron was excited when his brother, William, was born and he offered to help wherever he could. “He would run and get diapers and try to help change his brother,” Nancy says. They moved to Trenton, Ont., in 1997, and family life became turbulent and at times very difficult. At age seven, Aaron went into foster care. He and his brother moved to Belleville, Ont., where they were placed with the family of Terry Ward, who worked as a collection officer with the federal government, and her husband, Kevin Ward, who served in the military.
For the first few months in the new city, Aaron was disruptive in school and didn’t communicate well with teachers. But he was a bright kid who learned to adapt. By the end of the year, he was a straight-A student. Even at the age of nine, he was a perfectionist with big dreams. “He wanted to be president,” Terry says. “It didn’t matter that that only occurred in the United States and we were Canadian.”
Aaron was active outside the classroom, too, participating in karate and basketball. At home, he often played video games with his brother, but also enjoyed Cranium whenever it was family game night. Aaron also volunteered every year for Belleville’s MS Walk, to raise funds for multiple sclerosis. “He hated sleep because, heaven forbid, he should miss something,” Terry says. He also had his own unique fashion sense, wearing only black jeans and red shirts. From his room to his shoes, everything was red and black, she says. “They were just his colours.”
In 2004, Terry and Kevin split up and Aaron took the news hard. He struggled again in school and rebelled at home. He continued to live with Terry until he turned 16, then moved to Head of Millstream, N.B., where Kevin resided. A year later, he came back to Trenton to live with his biological mother again, but soon returned to Belleville to live with Terry. At 18, Aaron was no longer in foster care, but, together with Terry, they gave talks to groups of potential foster parents, promoting foster care as “forever families.”
Aaron wanted to move into his own apartment. He worked at McDonald’s full-time, saving every penny. When he had $8,000 in his bank account, he found an apartment and bought brand-new furniture. At the same time, Aaron enrolled in a police training program at Loyalist College. “He would go to work at night, go to school in his uniform, go home, sleep, do homework and go right back to work,” William says. “He never really had down time.” But when his grades suffered, Aaron dropped out. “If Aaron did not get 100 per cent, he did not want to do it,” Terry says. But he was persistent and re-enrolled the very next year.
In a second-semester psychology course, the teacher split up the class for group work. Aaron walked across the room to Hope Paterson. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘I hear you’re really good at presentations. We should work together. I have a 98.5 per cent average,’ ” Hope laughs. “That was pretty much his pickup line.” His fashion sense had evolved from the days of red and black. He never wore jeans, opting instead for dress pants every day. “He’d be happy wearing a suit to bed. He wanted to be looking professional all the time,” says Hope. By the end of the semester, they started dating. Within weeks, they were living together. A few months later, Hope found out she was pregnant. Excited to be a father, Aaron read all the baby books before Hope did.
Aaron continued with his studies, but also tutored other students. In his third semester, he became a justice studies representative with the student government. All the while, he kept working at McDonald’s to save money. When the Quinte courthouse opened in August 2013, he got a job cleaning the building. A few months later, Aaron and Hope moved to Trenton. On March 14, their son, Jude, was born. Two days later, while still in the hospital, Aaron and Hope got engaged.
In the early morning of April 3, Aaron was coming home after working a night shift of campus security at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., part of an unpaid work practicum through school. He was on the highway when his car crossed the centre line and collided with an oncoming vehicle. Four days later, Aaron was pronounced dead. He donated his kidneys, liver, pancreas and lungs, saving four lives. He was 21.