Notable Ex Cadet: 5576 Leonard Lee Dies in his 78th Year


Notable Ex Cadet: 5576 Leonard Lee – Dies in his 78th Year

By: WJO

5576 Leonard Gordon Patrick Lee entered Royal Roads in September 1958.

The rural Saskatchewan native, spent two years in Victoria, BC earning the English prize at the end of second year; he also starred on the senior rugger team. An aspiring pilot, he was awarded the Royal Canadian Air Force Association – Award of Merit – in May 1960.

He arrived at Royal Military College of Canada in September, 1960 and quickly joined the senior football team.

Len had a very successful year at RMC in 1960-61. He was the designated Cadet Wing Commander (CWC) for the 1961 – 62 school year.  However, he had a medical problem while going through pilot training in the summer of 1961. He subsequently received an Honourable discharge from the Regular Officer Training Plan that Fall.

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MORE…

including – a list of quotes from Len Lee

He attended Queen’s University for two years, graduating in 1963 with and Honours BA in Economics.  He married Lillian Lorraine King while a student – March 9th, 1962.

Following two moths employment with the Combines Investigation Branch of the Department of Justice, he joined the Department of Trade & Commerce as a Foreign Service Officer in July 1963. Following one year of training he was posted to Chicago as Vice Consul and Assistant Trade Commissioner.

He ended up working with the federal government for sixteen years.

In 1978, he founded Lee Valley Tools Ltd., a Canadian woodworking and gardening tools mail-order business which has since grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. In 1985, he founded Veritas Tools. In 1991, he founded Algrove Publishing. In 1998, Len started a new business, Canica Design – an innovative medical device company that specializes in designing devices for the mechanical manipulation of soft tissues for use in acute care and chronic care settings.

In 2002, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada for “being a successful entrepreneur.”[ In 2007, he was granted an honorary degree from the Royal Military College of Canada. In 2011, he was granted an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa.

He was appointed as Honorary Colonel of 14 Air Maintenance Squadron in 14 Wing Greenwood, NS in April 2008 and served the full term.

Len Lee died on July 7, 2016 from effects of vascular dementia.

A list of quotes from Len Lee:

“I’m not really an expert,”…”I’m just the one-eyed man and you’re part of the kingdom of the blind.”

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“My greatest pride and my greatest sorrow is that leaving Lee Valley didn’t affect it all,” he says with a smile. “It was like taking your hand out of a bathtub of water.”

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“We go in and see the operation,” says Lee. “Initially everybody wanted to puke. But you get accustomed to the blood and gore.”

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“I’ve never had so much fun losing so much money,” …”It’s hugely satisfying to do something that makes such a difference.”

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“No one said go for the gold ring, or you could be anything you want to be,” …

“You can actually come from a log house in northern Saskatchewan and end up in an embassy in Peru,”…

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“My mother couldn’t believe I gave up a government job for a little hardware business,”

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“I can assure you what you will do in life best is what you love to do.”

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“By coming from another industry, we can look at things from an entirely different perspective.”

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“People are a different consistency than wood, but the principle remains the same.”

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“I decided,” Mr. Lee says, “that if you can sell cast iron by mail, you can probably sell anything.”

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“I guess you could say that we vastly underestimated the conservative nature of the surgical field.”

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“Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

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“What we occupy, is intellectual real estate.”

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What he hated most are liars and cheats – “I have no time for that at all.” …”When I first heard of ‘situational ethics’ I almost vomited,” …There are things that are right and things that are wrong.”

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On government mismanagement:

“It’s king of a blood sport for me,” he chuckles. “I saw a lot of what was wrong when I was in government.”

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“You know when a friend is being reasonable,” he says. “You know when a friend is being unreasonable.”

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From the very beginning, I decided because the company was going to be based on the individual woodworker (and later gardeners), nobody would get a better deal.”

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“I much prefer hand tools. Power tools are just hand tools operating at speed.”

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“I love solving a problem. It’s fascinating.”

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“I think we’ll now manufacture a limited number of these because they are needed in the market. We all lose strength as we get older.”

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“There won’t be big sales, but it will help some people and, you know, you always do well by doing good.”

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“I was very unhappy in my job with the government and getting very depressed.”

He added that while interesting jobs and good bosses did (and do) exist in the federal public service; he was not blessed with either.

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“Suddenly cutting off your total income and having your mortgage payments go way up is pretty scary,” recalls Leonard. “But my wife, Lorraine, was always very supportive. When you go into business, the support of your spouse is even more important than the support of your banker.”

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We were always short of cash, but the business worked from the opening gun because people ‘did’ want the tools and were glad to have them in the Canadian market.”

“Duty rates were much higher then and importing them from the U.S. was a hassle.”

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Whenever a manufacturer wouldn’t modify something or we couldn’t find what we wanted, we did it. That’s how we got into manufacturing.”

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Customers kept coming to me to ask how to sharpen tools, so I started to study the subject,”

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“Our staff know that if they save a box, it saves us a dollar. And they’ll get 25 cents out of that dollar,”

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“I couldn’t get a slick. I couldn’t get a broad axe. I couldn’t even get a decent draw knife.”

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“Woodworking was my hobby, and I knew that there were a lot of woodworking tools needed by woodworkers.”

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“It looked like the American market for woodworking and hand tools, by mail order, was about $10 million. At that time I estimated the Canadian market would be about one million and, if we could capture the Canadian mail order market we would have a company that could employ about 10 people.”

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“Originally all we sold was a cast-iron, barrel stove kit . . . You want a tough job! But it worked. We actually didn’t lose any money. Of course, during that first year, customers kept asking, “How come you’re selling stoves, and you’re called Lee Valley Tools?”

“Well, you’re going to have to wait. It was taking time to collect the variety and the quality of tools that I had in mind.”

**

“We weren’t entirely ready for something like that, but we pulled together an ad. We showed a black walnut tool chest, with the top open, and tools in it. All the ad said was: ‘For our 78 page catalogue of fine woodworking tools, send one dollar to this address’. We ended up getting 2,200 one-dollar bills. It was an unbelievable response for us, and jump-started our entire business. After that initial mailing our client list grew, mostly by word of mouth.”

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“I had no business experience. I’d only been in farming and government, but business is really just common sense. One thing I learned in government, is that the atmosphere at work makes a huge difference in the productivity of the individuals. In the government, you have lots of responsibility and no authority.”

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“One of the difficulties in Canada, in recent years, is that we’re not training people. The skilled trades are in terrible shape. The good news is that, for anyone who does take up woodworking, the market for cabinetmakers is going to be better as time goes by.”

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“Overall, I think that if somebody’s going into woodworking to make a living, it’s not because it’s an easy way to get rich, it’s because of a love of the craft.”

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“If you never took a risk, you never would have got your first kiss,” … “It’s important that you be willing to take risks in your profession and your career, and have the courage to work on the cutting edge of engineering and be creative — that’s really where the fun is, not in the day-to-day stuff.”

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Related:

Leonard Lee, founder of Lee Valley Tools, dies

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/leonard-lee-founder-of-lee-valley-tools-dies

Friends are invited to share in Leonard’s life at the C. R. GAMBLE FUNERAL HOME & CHAPEL Inc. 127 Church St. Almonte, ON (613) 256-3313 on Monday & Tuesday, July 11 & 12th from 2 to 4 & 6 to 8 PM.

Private family Service with Rev. Pat Martin, officiating.

This article, Notable Ex Cadet: 5576 Leonard Lee Dies in his 78th Year, first appeared on e-Veritas.