Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Leaver Family

I came across these stones a couple of years ago while on a wild goose chase for my husband's ancestors in Lowville Cemetery, just north of Burlington.  Leaver was a well known name in this area many years ago when the mushroom farm up in Northern Burlington/Campellville was known as Leaver Mushrooms.  The main stone was what first caught my eye and then the markers directly in front of it.  Three young girls and two adults, all who died on June 13, 1971.  I figured it was probably a tragic car crash that killed an entire family.  I decided to dig a little deeper to see if this family was a member of the Leaver mushroom clan and to also see if I could discover the details surrounding their death. 

The front page of the Toronto star on June 14 provided the details. A Cessna 182 crashed 300 ft short of the runway in Tobermory around 5:30 PM in dense fog. L. David Leaver was flying the plane.  His wife Marian (nee Waters)  and daughters Kathryn Elizabeth, Ruth Ann and Jeanette Eleanor died.  One daughter Heather Dianne Leaver, aged 6, survived with multiple fractures and chest injuries  She was carried from the wreckage by Angus Ralph, the airport caretaker on an airplane door that he used as a stretcher.  The family had left their cottage in Little Current on Manitoulin Island and were planning to have dinner in Tobermory with David's father.  Page 4 of the June 15th Toronto Star reports that Heather took a turn for the better the previous night but was still in critical condition and was being treated for chest injuries, multiple fractures and leg injuries.  I tried to find some more information about Heather but couldn't.  I do know that she is not buried in the family plot.  Her grandparents Lloyd Holtby (died 1977) and Amy Mildred (died 1995) are buried with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  According to Lloyd Holtby's death notice, (Toronto Star March 30, page C6) he died in Venice, Florida of a heart ailment. He started the mushroom farm in 1924 with his father an English grocer after he graduated from the Ontario Agriculture College at my alma matter, the University of Guelph.  His death notice and his obituary the following day (Toronto Star page B8) names his wife and surviving children Dianne and Jonathan but does not mention Heather.


  1. Hi Deb, I came upon these graves just yesterday while taking a break from driving on my home commute. I thought it would be peaceful in there. I decided to look them up also and appreciate your sleuthing - I myself imagined they had all died in a fire. I notice that you say one girl is Jeanette Eleanor but the grave marker is Janet Elaine. Is there a reason for the difference? Re Heather, if you follow this link, there is reference to her survival and the guardianship arrangements. It is called "Notice of Application" in the lower right hand side of the page next to the Auction notice.

  2. My mother, for many years, worked for Leaver Mushrooms. I also did for one summer in the late 60s. This cannery was on Hurontario (Hwy #10) south of the 401. I remember mom saying that only the youngest survived the crash. Hopefully Heather is still alive as she would only be around 50 years old.

    I was curious to see if the company was still around. When searching I found your post. I never knew details like where the crash occurred, interesting article.

    Paul Ruspay