Prominent Kingston lawyer remembered as devoted father and athlete

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Kingston’s legal and sports communities are mourning the sudden loss of a local criminal defense attorney, a triathlete and a father.

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Kevin Dunbar, called to the bar in 2009, has been described by his closest friends as an incredibly kind person, a dedicated father and a lawyer who always found a way to connect with his clients.

“He’s the guy who steps in when there’s a crunch. He is the best friend you can have, the most helpful colleague. … Everyone says things like that when someone dies, but it’s the truth about this guy,” Sean Ellacott said Monday afternoon.

“He and Liz had built this great little family unit. He loved her and her children so much. He was well liked by his friends and colleagues for all the different things he did. They kind of show it now because there’s more people out there willing to help at this point than it’s even possible to attribute things to… the outpouring has been amazing.

Dunbar, husband of Liz and father of Maggie and Ciara, died suddenly of heart problems at home on Sunday morning. He was 47 years old.

Along with numerous local attorneys who have reached out to help cut Dunbar’s private practice, tributes to the Brockville native have been posted online.

Youth Diversion called him a strong supporter of their efforts, and the John Howard Society said he was an integral part of the Kingston defense bar.

“(He was) a strong advocate for his customers,” the company wrote online. “His presence in court will be missed and our hearts go out to his family during this tragic time.”

Dunbar was president of the Kingston Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association. Ellacott, also a criminal defense attorney who shared an office with Dunbar, said his friend was still able to communicate with his clients despite the situation they were in.

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“He was a super nice lawyer; he’s actually a really nice guy,” Ellacott said. “He was caring and he seemed to have a pretty easy way with people who had run into problems in their lives. I think he was pretty good at caring about their needs, and he was good at dealing with people who had their own issues in their lives.

Fellow criminal lawyer and federal crown attorney Jordan Tekenos-Levy explained that Dunbar handled Belleville’s cases in Brockville, and it was almost as if he was still in court. He said Dunbar’s clients were keen to have him recorded as their attorney.

“’My lawyer is Kevin Dunbar. He’ll be there’, and Kevin would surely show up,” Tekenos-Levy said. “He was always a professional, dealing with the Crown, dealing with the judge, dealing with problematic clients or with mental health issues. He was just a wizard to bring people down to earth and help them realize the goals were in the circumstances.

Dunbar was also an elite athlete who competed in running events most of his life.

Kingston Road Runners Association president Lana Saunders explained that Dunbar has been involved in the running community for nearly 20 years. On Saturday, he had volunteered to certify the new Limestone Mile race course.

“Proud to wear the KRRA jersey, Kevin was a fierce competitor, incredible athlete and friend to all,” Saunders wrote on Facebook. “The KRRA will fondly remember Kevin as a truly humble person, a devoted father and husband, and an encouraging friend to many of us.”

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Last December, Dunbar spoke about his life and running journey at the association’s annual general meeting.

The son of Irish immigrants Tony and Eithne Dunbar, Kevin attended Thousand Islands Secondary School, where he competed on the track and field team, excelling in the 800 and 1,500 meter races. He explained in his speech that he had won a scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where he competed for nearly four years, but left without a degree and returned home to Brockville, then eventually to Kingston. He worked for a few years in the hospitality industry, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, then applied to Queen’s Law School. He was accepted and competed on the Gaels cross country team. At 30, the “Silver Fox” has raced at the national championship and the national indoor championship.

Meanwhile, Dunbar explained that personal struggles plagued him, but asking for help is what got him through.

“You never know who you might inspire, who might see you and try to change their life, just by putting on those shoes and jogging,” Dunbar wrote in his speech.

On Strava, an online app used to track and share physical activity, he recorded a 14 kilometer run on the K&P Trail in Sydenham on Saturday.

“Running is better with friends,” he captioned the run.

He also recorded a 1,942 meter lake swim and a 51 kilometer bike ride that day. Although the app may not contain all of Dunbar’s personal bests, of those he has recorded, his best marathon time was two hours 49 minutes 35 seconds, his best half marathon time was 1:20 :28 and his best time of a kilometer race was only 2h12.

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This year alone, Dunbar has completed 888.7 kilometers of running, 35,779 kilometers of cycling and 8,588 meters of swimming. He had finished the Boston Marathon in 3:09:59 and was planning to compete in a half Ironman duathlon again in Mont Tremblant at the end of this month.

But his athletic feats were not his crowning achievement, his friends insisted. His family has always been his top priority. Ellacott said the family of four was always together and always traveled together.

“Super tight,” Ellacott said of the family. “He just loved his kids.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support Dunbar’s wife, Liz, and daughters Ciara and Maggie. It can be found by visiting www.gofundme.com/f/kevin-dunbar.

Funeral arrangements are scheduled for later this week at Wartman Funeral Home and St. Joseph Catholic Church.

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Jon J. Epps