Gunter, Mia Celestina Annette
August 12, 1994 – March 5, 2023
It is with broken hearts we say goodbye to our wonderful daughter and sister, Mia, who tragically passed away at the age of 28 on March 5. Her memory and joy for life will be cherished by her loving parents, Doris Bonora and Lorne Gunter, her brother John, her grandparents Mario and Addy Bonora, her aunts and uncles Lisa and Carl, Ron and Pam, Jim and Karen, Mary Ellen and Gord, and her cousins Ashley, Vanessa, Byron, Eric, Carson and Rachelle, and a legion of other aunts, uncles, cousins and friends from around the world.
Born in Edmonton. She graduated from St. Francis Xavier High School and attended West Virginia University, the University of Oregon and the University of Victoria. Most recently she graduated from the LLB program at the University of York law school in the U.K. While at York, Mia won a bronze medal for academics and won awards for mooting and negotiating. She was elected Law Society representative of her class and worked tirelessly for the equivalent of Student Legal Services. She was weeks away from completing her articles and being admitted to the Bar in Alberta.
Mia was a lifelong athlete. She tried every sport and was usually quite successful despite her tiny 5’1 frame. After winning gold in the provincial U11 diving competition at the age of 8, Mia found her true passion in soccer. From the West Edmonton Raiders to the Drillers, the Sherwood Park Rangers and Phoenix and the Calgary Blizzard, the Alberta provincial team and the national training program, Mia won several championships and personal awards along with teammates she cherished. Then came seasons with the West Virginia Mountaineers, Oregon Ducks (where she earned a full-ride soccer scholarship) and Victoria Vikes.
After university, Mia and her friend Emma, were determined to play professionally in Europe – a dream and an adventure. The two tried out for teams in Norway before signing a contract with KoldingQ in Denmark, where they enjoyed a season together. The duo passionately threw themselves into Danish culture, learning a bit of Danish and embracing the concept of “hygge” – taking time to relax and enjoy friends.
Then Mia signed a contract in Reykjavik for Club KR. She loved her soccer experience there and all the amazing outdoor activities Iceland offered, especially swimming the icy North Atlantic followed by a plunge in a thermal hotsprings.
During both her professional contracts, Mia loved coaching youth teams to championships.
Mia always maintained deep friendships all over the world with members of every team she ever played for. That was just the kind of person and teammate she was.
She also encouraged her family to come along while she played, travelled, studied and volunteered around the world. Because of Mia, her family got to experience Europe and Asia as they might not have without her. Her passions were infectious.
It was one of those passions – fighting for justice – that led Mia to Cambodia on a three-month internship to help win basic human rights for the Khmer Krom, a stateless people rejected by both Vietnam and Cambodia. In addition to her NGO volunteership, Mia also conducted an online fundraising campaign to source out, buy and deliver rice and school supplies for the children of a Krom village.
Mia’s passion for fighting for those who do not have a voice then inspired her to attend the University of York in Britain to study international human rights law. It was also behind her many volunteer activities, such as Special Olympics. In Oregon she coached her Special Olympics team to the state championships and found a coaching opportunity continuing to coach women’s Special Olympics soccer on her return to Edmonton.
Mia organized several clothing drives for the homeless in Edmonton. In the fall of 2022, Mia noticed a social media post from the Zebra Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, a place of hope and health for young victims of abuse run by police officers, medical professionals and specialized counsellors. The Centre was asking for a donation of warm clothing for children in need. Rather than giving an old coat or two, Mia criss-crossed the city collecting coats, hats, mitts and other items from family and friends until she had dozens of pieces to give. Zebra saw her passion and invited her for a tour and started discussions to have Mia have a future with Zebra.
Another passion – food – took Mia to Siena, Italy for a three-month semester abroad to study food and wine. She often said sharing food was her “love language,” which she shared passionately. Mia was an accomplished cook and host, especially for someone her age. No recipe scared her and every culture inspired her to cook.
At 28, Mia also counted visits to 35 countries. Most visits were not just layovers. She threw herself into travel, the culture and the food, there was nothing she would not try and then she hiked, climbed, studied, worked or helped others everywhere she went, absorbing lessons from other cultures along the way.
She is gone far too soon. Her family wishes to thank everyone for all the offers of help and messages of support received from all over the world. They have been a great comfort. She will be missed by the many hundreds whose lives she enriched with her wonder, love, generosity, humour, insights, friendship, laugh and smile.
A celebration of Mia’s life will be held Wednesday, March 15 at 1:00 p.m. at St. John’s Anglican Church, 11111-57 Avenue.
Donations can be made to the Zebra Centre, which has enthusiastically agreed to set up “Mia’s Closet” for clothing and essentials for children and families in need of comfort and support. https://zcpc.kindful.com/?campaign=1243109
Donations can also be made to the Edmonton Special Olympics women’s soccer program by visiting specialolympicsedmonton.ca. On the donation page, please say your donation is in memory of Mia Gunter to ensure the funds go to women’s soccer.
To send condolences, please visit connelly-mckinley.com.
Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home