Academic trail-blazer had Leaside ties

Francess Halpenny. Photo by Harry Palmer.
Francess Halpenny. Photo by Harry Palmer.

Francess Halpenny has died at the age of 98.

Halpenny joined the University of Toronto Press as an editor in 1941 upon graduating with a Master’s degree in English language and literature. She served a two-year stint in the RCAF as a meteorological observer in Newfoundland and PEI before returning to the Press where she became, in the words of historian Christopher Moore, “surely the greatest Canadian scholarly editor of the second half of the 20th century – should we just say ever?”

During her long career Halpenny was from 1969-1988 the General Editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and from 1972-78 Dean of the Faculty of Library Science (now Information Studies) at U of T and professor of library sciences. She was awarded 11 honorary degrees by Canadian universities and was named a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Halpenny was a trail-blazer for female academics and in some ways a Leaside pioneer as well. “My father was the manager of Tamblyn’s Drug Store at Laird and Eglinton,” she told me when I met with her last summer. “Northlea United Church began in my parents’ living room, at 32 Glenbrae Ave. The man responsible wanted my parents to form the church – they already had the site in Leaside. My mother was a very capable woman, very good at talking and a good person to go door to door. There were a lot of returned veterans moving into North Leaside right after the war.”

She was a charter member of Northlea United when it was founded in 1949. “I didn’t attend much in the early years because I was busy with my academic career. But I had done some acting and speaking around the university so was asked to give a talk at some point in the ’50s. After that I gave sermons occasionally and for many years spoke each year at the last service of the summer before Labour Day.” Halpenny continued her association with Northlea until her death, attending whenever able. “I stay in touch with them,” she said last June, “they were and are a good people.”

Halpenny died on Christmas Day surrounded by family at the Veterans Wing of Sunnybrook Hospital where she had lived since 2013.

A memorial service will be held on March 26 at Northlea United, with visitation at 10 a.m. and service at 11 a.m. — Allan Williams

Robert LowreyRobert Lowrey, 1945-2017

We were saddened to learn of the sudden death of Robert Lowrey on Christmas Day. He and his company – well-known in Leaside for decades – were profiled in the December, 2017 issue of Leaside Life. What the article didn’t mention were his many acts of kindness and goodwill throughout his career, and his love of his wife and daughter. We send condolences to his wife Kim and daughter Katie.