This week the woodworking industry lost a wonderful man Mr Leonard Lee, the founder of Lee Valley and Veritas Tools died and his absence from this world will leave a hole in many hearts - especially in those of his employees. Having joined the company 6 years ago, I didn't have the opportunity to work with Mr Lee day-to-day but I did get to know him when I was a student at Rosewood Studio. Canica (the medical company Mr Lee founded) was just down the street from Rosewood so it was common to meet up with Mr. Lee at The Groundz, Baker Bob's or at the school and community events like Puppets Up.
When I first started working for the company, one of my first jobs was to get the video production project going in conjunction with many talented people. Mr Lee's office in Almonte had video equipment and a computer with a video editing suite that Mr Lee offered to us to use to make our first video. This meant that myself and Shawn (camera guy and editing guru) spent a couple of days in the Canica offices cutting our video teeth.
If you have ever met me personally, you will know that I have a sense of humor that can get me into trouble at times. I am loud, self-deprecating and occasionally crass and most people either love or hate me. Mr Lee recognized this and would throw a well-meaning hack at me from time to time. In the army we used to say that if they teased you, they liked you.
While we were editing the first video, Mr Lee poked his head in the office to see how things were going.
"How's it going in here gents"? Mr Lee asked.
"The technical aspects of the project are going well but the talent is no raving hell." I responded. (I was the talent in question)
Mr Lee stepped up to the monitor Shawn was working at, circled me with the butt of his pen and retorted "....and that's a lot of talent."
We all burst out laughing and Mr Lee apologized saying "It couldn't be helped."
About 30 minutes later Mr Lee came down the hall and asked if I had a minute and beckoned me down the hall to his office. When I walked in my jaw hit the floor. There was all matters of antiquity displayed in there. Everything from hand woodworking tools to a WW2-era gunner's quadrant from the Canadian Artillery. He let me look around and anything I focused on or touched he gave me the provenance. I must have spent an hour and a half in there listening to Mr Lee's stories and soaking up every bit that I could. Mr Lee was an excellent story teller and I could have spent a week in that office listening to him talk. The tour ended when Mr Lee said, "Neither of us is getting any work done doing this so get out of here." All said with his signature smile and a chuckle.
I realized as I read what I've written here today that I used the honorific "Mr" often. True respect for another human being is earned through a person's actions, not title or station. Some people just command respect because they deserve it. Mr Lee was one of these people. We address Leonard Lee as "Mr Lee" out of respect for a man that respected us and I always cringe when I hear someone who didn't know him very well as Leonard ... it just doesn't sound right.
I will always treasure the time I spent with Mr Lee. He was a smart guy and a gentleman who always had time for people no matter who you were. I'm not a believer in God but science tells us that energy can not be destroyed. Even though Mr Lee's physical presence is gone, it gives me great solace to know that his energy is still with us to influence and guide us down the right path ... so long Mr Lee. - V