Leonard G. Lee
1938 – 2016
In Memoriam Leonard G. Lee
Born in 1938 in Wadena, Saskatchewan, Leonard Lee was the founder of Lee Valley Tools, Veritas Tools, Canica Design and Algrove Publishing. In his early years, he studied Civil Engineering at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and Royal Roads Military College in Victoria, British Columbia, and later received an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

At the age of 39, after a career in the Canadian Foreign Service as well as serving as Executive Director for the Canadian Consumer Council and National Dairy Council of Canada, Mr. Lee founded Lee Valley Tools. Lee Valley initially sold cast iron stove parts by mail order from a rented basement in a strip mall. The first Lee Valley catalog was published in the fall of 1978. The company quickly expanded into retail locations across Canada, as well as establishing a manufacturing division – Veritas Tools.

He built the company around three guiding principles – customer satisfaction, integrity and treating the customer as a friend. He empowered his employees to address issues with customers as they saw fit. Over the years, the company expanded from selling woodworking products into gardening, hardware, kitchen and other home product lines.

He founded Canica Design, a medical tool company, in 1998. Canica developed cutting-edge medical tools for cleft palates and carpel tunnel surgery. The company also created the Canica Hand Surgery System (CHESS), which uses rare-earth magnets to create a stable retraction system for hand surgery.

Making a positive contribution to the human condition was a mission statement for Canica. Throughout his career, Mr. Lee and his companies have made generous donations to many charitable organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, The United Way as well as the hospital in his adopted hometown of Almonte, Ontario.

Mr. Lee was bestowed with many honors and awards throughout his career. In 1992, Lee Valley received the Popular Mechanic’s Design and Engineering Award. He received honorary degrees from Carleton University, Royal Military College, Ottawa University and the Telfer School of Management. He is a recipient of the Queen's Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and was honored with the Order of Canada (C.M.) in 2003 for his success as an entrepreneur.
A Piece of Wood (excerpt)
by Henry Rohr

He takes it in his hands
and sees the hidden life
and makes it speak
Of growth and death
joy and pain
all the mysteries of life.

All this is contained
in a piece of wood.