Ron Rompkey, a university professor who wrote the definitive biography on Labrador medical missionary Sir Wilfred Grenfell, has died. 

He died on Thursday in St. John's after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

'I meet former students of his all the time, who tell me what a great teacher Ron was.'  - Bill Rompkey

Rompkey's older brother, former Canadian Senator Bill Rompkey, told On the Go host Ted Blades on Friday that his brother's contribution to the French presence in Newfoundland was his greatest contribution. 

"It's worth noting that he wrote in French. He became fluent in French, and he wrote in French — which is [a] mean task," he said.

"His book on the official French presence in Newfoundland was translated, and is on the stacks now. But I should tell you that he has an unpublished work — and if there are any publishers listening — I hope they will take a look at the manuscript, because it's about French fishing."

"And there is, to my knowledge, nothing else written as extensively as this on French fishing in Newfoundland. So that's the unique contribution and one that needs to be made to Newfoundland history," said Rompkey.

Terre-Neuve Anthologie des voyageurs francais

Ron Rompkey wrote Terre-Neuve Anthologie des voyageurs français in 2004. (CBC)

​Rompkey said he and his brother both shared a "lifelong love of letters and words."

"He was of course much more successful than I was, so he went on to London and got his Ph.D over there, and had a very successful career, not only as a scholar and writer, but as a teacher. I meet former students of his all the time, who tell me what a great teacher Ron was."

The younger Rompkey taught at several universities in western Canada, before coming to Memorial University as professor. 

In the UNTD

In addition to Ron Rompkey's academic achievements, he was a commissioned officer in the RCN (R), rising to the rank of Commanding Officer at HMCS Cabot in St. John’s. 

Bill Rompkey fondly remembers when his brother expressed interest in joining the University Naval Training Division (UNTD), while he was enrolled as a young student at Memorial University. 

"We trained at Cabot, which was at Buckmaster's Field at that time. So Ron, I guess, saw me in uniform often enough, to think maybe he'd give it a try ... but then again the navy was part of the family too. We grew up during the war, and there were various ratings that came to the house. In totality, he was drawn to the navy for several reasons."

Distinguished awards and recognition

Rompkey was honorary French Consul in St. John’s, and was awarded several French medals including L’Ordre de la Pléiade, by the French parliament.

In 2003, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and recognized for his work as a biographer, editor and reviewer, as well as for his contribution to the arts community.

Rompkey was also the founding director of the J.R. Smallwood Foundation for Newfoundland and Labrador Studies.

His funeral will be held on Aug. 5 from the Anglican Cathedral in St. John's. 

Ron Rompkey was 71.