For Posterity's Sake         

A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project


In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar


John Daniel Leitch


Lieutenant, RCNVR


Born: 11 Jan 1921, Winnipeg, Manitoba


Died: 12 May 2020, Toronto, Ontario


LEITCH, John Daniel, OC, LL.D. - On May 12, 2020, John Daniel Leitch, O.C,. LL.D, passed away in Toronto after 99 years of a life well lived. Jack was born in Winnipeg January 11, 1921 to Gordon and Hilda Leitch. He attended Appleby College in Oakville and on graduation enlisted in the Canadian Navy. He shipped off to war for six years as a navigator on a frigate (latterly the HMCS Cape Breton) in the North Atlantic, guiding and protecting merchant marine fleets that carried critical supplies to the Allies. In 1941, Jack married Peggy Cartwright, daughter of Chief Justice John Robert Cartwright and his wife Jessie. They had two daughters, Jill Bain and Jean Vander Ploeg. Jack's father, Gordon Leitch, founded what started as The Northland Shipping Company in 1932 with one ship. Jack became president when Gordon died unexpectedly in 1954 and took over operations of what became Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd., which over the years grew into one of the three largest Great Lakes shipping companies in Canada, including subsidiaries of Port Weller Dry Docks, and Heritage Pointe, a land development company and golf course near Calgary, Alberta. As Chairman of Upper Lakes Group Inc., as the company was later named, Jack introduced innovative ship designs and pioneered the development of large vessels with self-unloading capability. His activities in the industry have helped to maintain and develop merchant shipping in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. In addition, he was the founding director of the Board of Governors of the Chamber of Maritime Commerce. In 2011 Upper Lakes Group Inc., which had been in the Leitch family for nearly 80 years, was sold. Jack is a legend in the Canadian shipping industry, and will be forever remembered as the lone marine leader who stood up to Hal Banks in an era of tyranny and corruption in the 1960's. Jack always had a prime concern about the welfare of the people he worked with, and he left this world proud of what his team had accomplished. Jack received many awards in the industry, including "The Great Lakes Man of the Year" in 1975, and in 2000 was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada. He served on many Boards, and was a generous philanthropist. Jack always had a keen affection for horses and riding, starting as a young boy. Through his family farm, Leitchcroft in Thornhill, he developed an equestrian centre where people could come and take lessons at the riding school, as well as board their horses. It became home for many international horse shows and national championships. Jack also bred horses and supported many riders in the equestrian community. Always in the back of his mind was his desire for people to share in the enjoyment that he had experienced "having horses in his life". Jack Leitch was a true gentleman. He loved life, people, nature and animals. He had a quick wit and a ready sense of humour. Over his lifetime, Jack made many enduring and cherished friendships. Jack will be deeply missed by his daughters, four grandsons, and four great-grandsons, and his sister Ann Abraham of Toronto. He also leaves behind Catherine, his loving wife of 36 years. For those who wish to honor Jack, donations to the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets ( or The Centre for Marine Training and Research, Georgian College ( would be gratefully appreciated.  (Toronto Star 15 May 2020)


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