JA Snow Funeral Home

339 Lacewood Drive, Halifax, NS


Bill Freedman

January 20, 1950September 26, 2015

Dr. Bill Freedman, a lifelong naturalist, conservationist, and highly respected Environmental scientist, died at his home in Halifax on September 26, 2015. He was 65.

His keen interest in nature began as a young child living among the wooded ravines of Toronto. A young Bill would often bring home snakes, frogs, and other creatures that he would care for. His love of nature continued; eventually leading him to study biology at the University of Toronto and thereafter would touch every aspect of his life. While Bill’s profession focused on the devastating toll of humanity on the environment, his optimism for change remained and encouraged all those who worked with him.

After graduating from University of Toronto, Bill began teaching at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He conducted research; led field studies and taught environmental science in the Department of Biology and in the School for Resources and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from 1979 to 2015. Upon retirement, in 2015, he was appointed professor emeritus in the department of Biology. Bill served as Chair of the Department of Biology from 2000 to 2007. He held the George H. Campbell Chair in biology from 2007 to 2010. In 2006 he received a Canadian Environmental Award, Gold Medal Level in the category of Community Awards for Conservation from the Canadian Geographic Society. In 2007 he received a Career Achievement Award from the Canadian Council of University Biology Chairs.

Bill was a prolific writer, publishing ten books, among them, the first Canadian Environmental Science textbook; the 6th edition soon to be published by Oxford University Press. He also wrote countless refereed journal articles, reports for both government and private enterprise, as well encyclopedia entries. One of his final efforts was coordinating a comprehensive multi-authored volume on Sable Island, a place he loved and frequented.

For the past 26 years Bill was a volunteer with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). His knowledge and enthusiasm led to the Conservancy electing him as chair of the national board. Bill also served on the Atlantic board of the NCC. Bill’s scientific knowledge and infectious love of nature were always present. John Lounds, president and CEO of the Conservancy described him as “a mentor, wise counsel and friend”. Bill recently authored ‘A History of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, tracing the organization from its roots to its present status.

Bill had many passions, one of which was bird watching. He rarely missed a Christmas count and most spring migrations found him with friends at Point Pelee National Park. His interest started in high school and eventually led to globetrotting birding trips, usually with his long time friend, Ilan Neuman. Some of these escapades will be included in Bill’s book of personal essays, soon to be published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside. He was also passionate about native species. Always one to practice what he preached, Bill naturalized his own urban yard by planting native species in associations similar to those found in the natural environment.

Recently the Nature Conservancy honored Bill's contributions, renaming a 150 hectare coastal reserve in Prospect, Nova Scotia as the Dr. Bill Freedman Nature Reserve. As well, the NCC has created a science-in-conservation internship in his name. The internship will be awarded annually to a Dalhousie student to work with NCC.

Bill was born in Toronto on January 20th 1950 to Sarah and Ely Freedman, immigrants from Eastern Europe. He grew up in Toronto and attended Lord Landsdowne Public School and Harbord Collegiate. He went on to study biology at the University of Toronto where he received his PhD.

Bill married the love of his life, George–Anne Merrill in 1993. Together they raised two children, Jonathan (Adrienne Haik), and Rachael (Daniel Kovacs). Rachael gave birth to the family’s first grandchild, a girl, Luthien, on September 20 2015.

Bill had a mischievous sense of humor. Meet a friend, colleague, or casual acquaintance and they will have a funny anecdote. He was an avid collector of folk art, books, decoys, ginger beer and other bottles, art and anything else that caught his curious eye. Even in recent weeks he was still helping George-Anne install new art and displays in the house.

Bill's and George-Anne's generosity has been enjoyed and appreciated by many. Their beautiful Victorian home was often the place of gathering for their countless friends and colleagues from the university. Together, they hosted dinners for Nature Conservancy members; they held numerous holiday celebrations and many spur of the moment gatherings that were remarkable for George-Anne’s delectable food and the flowing wine. Their warmth and hospitality was well known, enjoyed and appreciated.

Bill is deeply missed by his sisters Doris (Bernard Sztybel), Rita (Irving Rosenfeld), his brother and sister-in-law Bryce and Margaret, many nieces and nephews, and countless friends.

Donations in memoriam may be directed to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. www.natureconservancy.ca Bill had many special projects in the Atlantic region.

A celebration of Bill will be held at a date to be announced.


  • Celebration of Life


Bill Freedman

have a memory or condolence to add?

Laurie Andrews

November 11, 2015

With fond memories of Bill such an intelligent, great and funny human being! George-Anne you had the best! Your undeniable love affair has left beautiful foot prints on your heart, and you will never, ever be the same.

Remembering you both with memories of happier times with Margaret and the kids back in Clayton Park.

I know you will find solace in your family and friends that all share the wonderful stories and times with "Bill"

Chris McCarthy

November 2, 2015

Bill was a marvellous man who kept the right balance in all that he did. His humanity and his ecological insights will continue to guide many of us. He lived a good life and we know he will be well rewarded for his kindness and care for others.
Chris and Karen McCarthy

October 19, 2015

Dear George-Anne, Mike and I always greatly admired Bill and his engaging enthusiasm on
Our Nature Conservancy Tours. Our hearts go out to you and your family.
Mary Catherine and Mike O'Brien

Maria Muszynska

October 7, 2015

Bill was a high school friend with whom four others and I traveled across Canada on motorcycles. We camped by rivers, laughed a lot and generally had a great time.
The world and I will miss you Billy. May your memory live in all who loved, respected and most of all laughed with you. I am proud to have been able to share some part of my life with you. Thank you.

Heike Lotze

October 6, 2015

Bill was such a strong and inspiring force of - and for - nature that will be deeply missed. Thank you Bill for the determination, humor, insight, optimism and love you shared with so many of us! My deepest sympathy for George-Anne and the family.

Milton Vacon

October 3, 2015

I was fortunate enough to meet Bill as I work for a publisher which published one of his many textbooks. My passion for the environment made it very easy to connect with Bill. I found him always willing to help and give suggestions on matters. His passion for teaching was always active,even outside the classroom.The world needs many more like Dr.Freedman

Cathy MacDougall

October 3, 2015

Dear George-Anne, Mike and I want to express our deepest sympathies to you and your family on Bill's passing. What a wonderful pair! You will be in our thoughts and prayers in the tough days ahead.

Boris Worm

October 2, 2015

Thank you Bill for everything you have done for me personally, our anarchistic department, and the world at large. You exemplify for me the insight that it is not humans versus nature. It's humans WITH nature. You will be missed by everyone and everything you touched. Warm wishes for George-Anne and the family. - Yours, Boris

Dawn Ferris (Korn)

October 2, 2015

Bill was a wonderful, friendly and funny man. I enjoyed working with him in Biology. I was very sad to hear of his passing, my sincere condolences to his family and his friends. He leaves a wonderful legacy in his work and dedication to the environment.

October 2, 2015

His love of nature and respect for the beauty it provided was always at the heart of every conversation I ever had with Bill . The world needs more people like him . Rest in peace my friend. Jim Butt ( Middleton , N.S. )