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How did David Stickney become Mr. Leaside?

So, how did The Stick [a.k.a. Le Baton] acquire the nickname Mr. Leaside? Let me count the ways.

David Stickney grew up in Leaside, attending local schools, as well as Leaside United Church, and participated in community baseball and hockey. Some older Leasiders might remember him delivering the newspaper or their dry cleaning from Bassett’s.

He started high school in 1957 and threw himself into every activity. He loved math and was inspired by Bill “Pops” Stafford who also coached him on Leaside’s football team. Dave, despite his relative light weight, played on the line and was given the nickname Tank, a moniker still used by his contemporaries.

David was evidently respected by his peers and in 1961 he was elected school captain. At the University of Toronto he completed a degree in engineering but his mind was soon directed to teaching. He started his teaching career in Oshawa, but two years later returned to Leaside where he remained until his retirement in 2001.

He was a much loved and respected teacher. He made math clearer, fun and practical for his students, and gave a large part of his day to providing extra help for math strugglers. He kept doing this right up until the current school year for both Leaside and York Mills students. This was a free service.

David and Janet were married in the early ’70s. They spent their first summers travelling and hiking around the world. I met David in 1973, my first year of teaching at Leaside. We soon became friends. He and Janet had just hiked around my home County Dorset and he shared my love of Hardy. He was my guest speaker, all dressed up in local Dorset garb, when I was discussing The Mayor of Casterbridge with my students.

In the ’70s he would be on the PA soliciting volunteers to rake leaves for Leaside’s seniors. He would then appear on stage at a school assembly dressed up as a blood corpuscle in an effort to solicit blood donors. On weekends he would lead Bruce Trail hikes for any interested students as well as hosting gatherings at his farm. He was also a leader for youth meetings at the United Church.

His other contributions to Leaside High School included coaching and supervising a myriad of extra-curricular activities; headship of the math department, a role he took over from “Pops” Stafford; as well as coordinator of the Leaside Scholarship Committee, an important role which he reluctantly gave up just three years ago. He was also in charge of the Staff Flower and Gift Fund and solicited funds from all his colleagues to provide gifts and cards to provide comfort for the bereaved and sick, and respect for retirees.

Janet and David have two children both former Leaside students. Irene runs a sewing and dress design school while Eric has run a Leaside baseball program for several years. David and Janet provide testimony to the fact that two people can live apart but still maintain friendship, regular family meetings, and mutual respect and support. This is unusual but admirable.

Since retirement, The Stick has been as involved in Leaside as ever. One of his hobbies was collecting wood from Mount Pleasant Cemetery and other venues, cutting and splitting it – an activity he found therapeutic – and then giving all the logs away to friends and neighbours. Every time there was a big snow fall, he would be seen shovelling the steps from Cameron Cres. to Talbot Park, another community service for which he demanded no recognition.

In the last few years, David has been a key member of The Leaside Sports Hall of Fame Committee recognizing our local sports heroes and organizing the induction ceremonies. He has also been a regular usher at Leaside United Church.

David and I stayed close friends since we retired from teaching. We have walked over a thousand miles together and explored every ravine and footpath in Toronto and many beyond. We have shared wonderful memories of Leaside, of the thousands of students we taught and of all our former respected colleagues.

David was the kindest and most generous friend I have ever had. It is so sad and ironic that the heart that he shared with so many and that gave so many joy, inspiration and comfort, finally let him down. Vive Le Baton!

Nick Mitchell taught with David Stickney at Leaside High School from 1973; and remained a close friend even after they both retired.


 

By CAROLYN SNIDER

David Stickney (always Mr. Stickney to me) was the quintessential teacher. His passion for the profession shone through everything he did. He was motivating and made all of us feel valued.

I especially remember his encouragement – whether on the softball diamond, from the back of the auditorium when performing in a high school musical or down at UofT while participating in a math competition.

I have so many fond memories of Mr. Stickney – as a math teacher who somehow made calculus fun! I remember walking into a portable for class and he was up on a desk rowing – we spent part of the class working through problems like, if he is rowing at 5km/hr and the current is against him at 3km/hr, how fast is he going?

I remember his smile – his eyes lighting up when I saw him on Bayview years after graduating.

I feel lucky to have had him as a teacher. Leaside was lucky to have him as a citizen.

Dr. Carolyn Snider grew up in Leaside and knew David Stickney all her life; she is now a pediatrician in Winnipeg.


By JOHN PARKER

I can’t remember how long ago Dave told me he had retired. But of course he never really did retire; he just changed the pattern of the work he did and never stopped doing.

In the same way, I don’t fully accept the news that he has died. Although he won’t any longer be riding past my house on that bike of his that I am sure he had since high school – wearing that tweed jacket that is not much newer – his booming voice will continue to echo in my ears, and our many conversations about matters local and otherwise will continue to play out in my mind.

Dave was the kind of neighbour we should all strive to be: engaged but not judgemental; helpful but not interfering; knowledgeable but not condescending. His life was all too short, but it was lived honourably and well, with not one nanosecond of it not put towards one worthy purpose or another.

It would serve as an inspiration to anyone.

More than anyone else I know, Dave Stickney represents Leaside’s past, present, and future: He grew up here and carried with him the first-hand memories of seven decades of an active life lived here. He continued to be a valued contributor to the local community right up to his final breath. And the countless young lives he touched as a local teacher and community leader will carry the memory of his genuine personal warmth and the lessons of his vast knowledge and wisdom for years to come.

John Parker, Leaside’s former city councillor, knew David Stickney as coach, teacher, community volunteer, neighbour and friend.


 

By RAY WHITE

When you’ve known someone as long as I’ve known Dave Stickney there are plenty of stories to pick from, but I choose a recent one, from the opening of the new rink at Leaside Gardens.

As usual Dave stepped up and volunteered to help with the opening day celebrations. He was pretty insistent on volunteering for parking lot and traffic control. He showed up wearing a bright orange shirt and a Navy-style Cracker Jack hat pulled down low over his ears. What a sight! But Dave was well prepared for the job at hand.

We paired him up with my son Ryan, a former student of Dave’s at LHS, to manage the parking and traffic and two better guys we couldn’t have picked, two math whizzes to put some order and control in what could have been a chaotic scene, and for Dave the added bonus was getting to interact with everyone who drove in and stepped out of their car.

Dave thoroughly enjoyed his day as did Ryan, former teacher and former student working side by side on a great day for the community.

Ray White, former arena board chair, knew David Stickney as a coach, teacher and friend.


 

By KATHY SEON PEARCE

David held firmly to values that he grew up with in the 1950s and ’60s, values about loving family and friends, about generosity of spirit and helpfulness to one’s community, about service to church, school, sports teams and other community institutions and about living his life without the faintest gap between what he said and what he did.

David gave generously of his time and kindness – far beyond the calls of duty or friendship – to my parents, Eric and Dorothy, in their old age. He supported and cared about them like they were his own parents, who had been gone for so long from his own life. He spent many hours just visiting and chatting. But he also spent many hours cutting the grass, cutting or delivering firewood, shovelling the snow, helping them to stay, as he understood they wanted to, in the house they lived in for so long. There were few days of any week when David did not call in.

David was never a big note-taker about what he did or whom he had helped. He just got on and did the things that mattered – even if that meant some inconvenience or cost to him. Of course, he would just say that it was just something he should do as a good neighbour and good citizen.

To him that was just part of being a member of the Leaside community. It brought him a lot of pleasure and satisfaction, but he also gave so much to so many people.

In any of our lives there are only a few truly wonderful, deep friends. David was one of those for all of us.

No one can say better about a man than that.

Kathy Seon Pearce grew up in Leaside and now lives in New Zealand.

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