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Leonard John Linton.Courtesy of family

Leonard John Linton: Patriarch. Entrepreneur. Mentor. Determined. Born Nov. 4, 1933, in Toronto; died July 19, 2022, in Toronto, of a stroke; aged 88.

Leonard Linton came home one evening in the spring of 1963 and told his wife he was quitting his sales job to start his own business. She was horrified. At the time, Norma was home caring for their three sons, Graham, Randall and Fraser, all under the age of five.

A few years earlier, Len had been diagnosed with depression. Despite the stigma, he sought professional help. His psychiatrist prescribed him the medication he would need for the rest of his life and encouraged him to explore his entrepreneurial interests. Leonard gave it a shot and wrote a business plan for a bank loan, only to face rejection. Plan B was to sell his new Pontiac, buy an old VW Beetle and use the funds to launch his carpet and furniture cleaning business and support his family.

Leonard’s doctor also advised him to exercise, so he joined the YMCA and discovered a new trend called “jogging.” He loved the way it made him feel. For over 25 years, he jogged year-round in all kinds of weather. Neighbours would chuckle and ask, “Hey buddy, what are you running from?” or say, “I think he went that way.” Len just shrugged them off and was happy when Randall started to join him. They used it as a time to catch up on each other’s news and he encouraged his son to try marathon running. Len was disappointed when, at age 52, knee pain forced him to stop.

In his early 40s, Len bought a recreation property just north of Barrie, Ont., to escape the stress of his business. “The Farm,” as the family affectionately called it, gave him renewed energy and joy. He loved the fresh air, using his ride-on mower and wood splitter and going for walks with his family in the forest. Norma always supported him but wasn’t so thrilled the day he nearly took her finger off when it got wedged in the splitter. And yet, many cherished family memories were made at the Farm, where they spent many summer weekends and holidays.

When his boys were young, Len spent long hours working at his business. Norma called it his fourth son.

He was proud when his children joined him for their own careers. All three grew to enjoy the cleaning business, though they may have started simply to catch a glimpse of what he did when he wasn’t at home.

Len also gave a lot of time to his business community, and founded the Leaside Business Park Association, serving as its president for more than a decade. In 2007, the City of Toronto named a park in Leaside in his honour for his contributions.

Because of the many hours Len spent with his “fourth son,” he often said he would make a better grandfather. He loved spending time with his seven grandchildren, whether it was skating and swimming on the pond at the Farm, sharing uncontrolled laughter watching Fawlty Towers or taking the family on a cruise.

In 1998, his granddaughter Elisa was diagnosed with a rare, terminal illness. When her family started the Sanfilippo Children’s Research Foundation to raise money and awareness, Len chaired its Board for 22 years. The foundation raised millions of dollars and initiated research around the world.

Norma’s love and commitment to Leonard were constant, especially in his last few years as he struggled with Alzheimer’s. She focused on the 67 years they shared, rather than dwell on the man she lost, which left a strong impression on her family.

A man of deep faith, Leonard often spoke of looking forward to meeting his Creator and seeing his granddaughter Elisa, again. On his last weekend, he stood facing the lake at Randall’s cottage. When asked what he was looking at, he replied, “I want to get one last look; I don’t think I’ll be back.”

It was an unlikely, if prophetic, message from a man who lived with hope and a positive outlook.

Randall Linton is Leonard’s second son.

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