October 21, 1928 – May 27, 2017
Donald McLeod of West Vancouver, B.C. passed away at the age of 88 at Vancouver General Hospital on Saturday, May 27, 2017, after a fall a few days earlier. He was surrounded by Christa (nee Scheerschmidt), his beloved wife of 58 years, and children Bruce and Catherine. His family is grateful for the two days they had with him after his fall and the previous day. It gave us the opportunity to tell him how much we loved him. His last words to us were to tell us all how much he loved us and to give us a list of all the other people we needed to tell that he loved. He also said "Don't cry for me, be happy for all the good times and the great life I had” — which he certainly did!
In addition to being a man for whom family was all, Don was a revered and iconic figure in Canada’s mining industry. He was an inspirational role model for young mining entrepreneurs. Don was born and raised in Stewart, B.C. to John and Catherine McLeod, originally of Stornoway, Scotland. From humble roots as a pack-horse operator and miner’s helper in the 1940s, he went on to become a successful mine finder, developer, and founder of the Vancouver-based Northair Group of Companies. He is best known for developing the Brandywine and Summit gold mines in B.C., and for making high-grade gold discoveries at the Brucejack project, now being developed by Pretivm Resources. He also mentored and encouraged countless people to pursue opportunities in the mining industry, including his own children.
Don’s life journey was shaped by his Scottish roots and the mining heritage of his hometown. Starting as a teenager, Don learned almost every aspect of the business as he rose through the ranks at various mines. After managing the discovery of a rich lead-zinc deposit at Pine Point, Northwest Territories, he was inspired to move his young family to Vancouver and start his own mining company. In 1972, as president of Northair Mines, he optioned a grassroots discovery near Whistler, B.C., and brought it into production 42 months later. It was an astounding feat, accomplished in a politically challenging era through stubborn persistence and his famously infectious optimism. Over the next seven years, the Brandywine mine profitably produced more than $70 million worth of gold, silver, lead and zinc. Don also developed the Summit gold mine and raised more than $200 million in equity for his Northair Group of Companies before retiring in 2014. In the 1980s, one of his companies, Newhawk Gold Mines, discovered high-grade gold deposits at the Brucejack project in British Columbia’s famous “Golden Triangle,” north of Stewart. Brucejack was ultimately acquired by Pretivm Resources, which went on to discover the 6.9-million-ounce Valley of the Kings gold deposit — where commercial production is anticipated within the next few months.
Don exemplified the qualities that have made Canada a leader in the global mining industry. His willingness to take on projects in difficult terrains and climates — often under challenging political or market conditions — is a testament to his tenacity and pioneering “can-do” spirit. He demonstrated integrity and professionalism throughout his 70 years in mining, earning the trust of his peers, employees and shareholders. He was intimately familiar with every aspect of the industry, from the bush to the boardroom. Those experiences gave him the credibility and the empathy to encourage others to follow their dreams in the “equal opportunity” mining industry. He was an inspirational role model and mentor for many young people, including his daughter and son, who went on to become successful industry leaders.
Don generously supported health and education causes, including the Mining for Miracles campaign, and St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation through the creation of the McLeod Family Professorship in Valvular Heart Disease Intervention.
Early this year, Don was inducted into Canada’s Mining Hall of Fame for his many contributions to the mining industry in our country. In addition to being named a “Mining Living Legend” by Cambridge House, Don was the recipient of the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C.’s E.A. Scholz Award for excellence in mine development, and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s Proficiency Award.
Quite late in life, at the urging of his family so that his wonderful stories of pioneering in the “olden days” could live on, Don became an author and wrote a memoir of his life. He called it The McLeod Luck. The title reflected his gratitude at the opportunities that he had made the most of — he truly knew he was a lucky man. The McLeod Luck went on to win the 2010 Independent Publisher book award Gold Medal for best regional non-fiction book. A link to a review of the book can be found here.
Don is survived by his loving and beloved wife of 58 years Christa (nee Scheerschmidt), his daughter Catherine and son-in-law Tom Seltzer, grandchildren Graham and Lucas, and his son Bruce, daughter-in-law Julia (nee Hasiwar), grandchildren Caelan and Madeline, as well as nieces and nephews and their children: Robert McLeod, his children Kate and John and partner Kristy Emery, Nancy McLeod and Mike Aksmanovic and their children Victoria and Marcus, David Miller, Jeannie (nee MacKay) and Gordon Alton of Austin, Texas and John MacKay of Edmonton, Alberta. Don was predeceased by his brother Ian in April 2011 (wife Vivian nee Seifert of Kelowna, B.C.) and his sisters Janet (May 2004) and Isabel (1998) and his parents Catherine (1982) and John (1952).
A memorial service will be held on Thursday, June 1 at 10 a.m. at Boal Chapel and Memorial Gardens, 1505 Lillooet Rd., North Vancouver B.C.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to St. Paul's Foundation in support of the McLeod Family Professor in Valvular Heart Disease Intervention at 178-1081 Burrard St. Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 1Y6 or www.helpstpauls.com