Floyd Sinton: an absolute thirst for opportunity

Column 141


Barb Sinton just smiled this week when I asked her what husband Floyd did for recreation… “He worked. And he collected old cars!”

Floyd Sinton found fun in seizing opportunity and making something of it. At 16 years old he borrowed $900 from his father and bought a 1949 20 passenger International bus. He drove himself and other students to Barrie Central Collegiate. On weekends he was at the business end of a gas pump at Sinton’s Garage in Craighurst.

In fact, Sinton and Craighurst are virtually synonymous since Stanley Sinton moved his three sons and wife to Craighurst from Shelburne in 1938. Having bought the Esso station and repair garage, the family settled in to work hard and create a real centre for community activity. They sold Orillia Otaco farm implements, Locomotive washing machines, Woods freezers, John Deere tractors and Esso gas. They also operated a tow truck.

Floyd and his brothers Allan and Jim, attended public school at the one-room schoolhouse in Craighurst, and then on to Barrie Central Collegiate.

The Sinton kids worked in the business until the older two boys headed out into different careers. But Floyd saw opportunity. With his first bus under his belt, Floyd looked around for more. He got to know Dooley Greer in Barrie; Joe Straughan in Edgar; Garfield Burton in Oro Station; Doug Duff in New Lowell; Albert Smith of Smith’s Farm Dairy. All of these folks had bus lines, delivery routes for milk or kids. They became Floyd’s business mentors and as most were ready to retire, Floyd bought their buses and their routes.

In 1968, Floyd married Barb Gray from Hawkestone. From day one they became a team. Work was a comfortable word for both of them and Barb drove a school bus, cleaned buses inside and out at the end of the day. She pumped gas. She and Floyd made decisions about their businesses together they worked side by side for 47 years until March 18, eight days ago, when Floyd passed away. He’d been diagnosed with smoldering leukemia, MDS in December, 2013. On March 6 this year he was told to expect between three and six months of life. Twelve days later, he was gone.

Their son, Stan, grew up behind the wheel of a bus. When his mom was driving, Stan was tucked into a seat behind her, watching as kids got on and off the bus for school. Stan was encouraged in the Sinton entrepreneurial way and demonstrated his ability for growth and leadership. Barb and Floyd could see semi-retirement in their future when Stan took on management responsibility. But esophageal cancer claimed Stan at age 38 in 2009.

Grief is absolute. Barb and Floyd had lost their only child. Yet Floyd, caring for his employees, would get up at 3:30 am and set out for their bus yards in Crownhill, Craighurst, and Vespra St in Barrie, starting each bus so they were warmed up and running when drivers arrived. He did this long after most people would have retired.

When Barb and Floyd sold their business to Landmark two years ago, they turned over a company with offices and yards in Barrie, Newmarket and Collingwood, 500 full and part time employees, contracts with York Region and Simcoe County school boards, Christian Board, Kempenfelt Bay Schools, transit routes in Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and Blue Mountain. The business included 9 56-passenger coaches, 3 or 4 limos, and scores of buses! And that’s just the Sinton Transportation part of the business. Selling was tough for Floyd; he was giving up the third love of his life.

He demonstrated incredible character traits… traits that pulled people to him. As well as being a licenced mechanic (still!), he was honest. He had incredible integrity. He respected his employees and he was respected in his industry. He saw opportunity and was really decisive about it. He loved a joke. When the OPP called at 3am needing gas, Floyd answered the call.

He gave generously to his community. He was a Shriner, a Mason, and sat on boards of both the Ontario and Simcoe County School Bus Operaters Associations. He and Barb gave generously to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, Gilda’s Club, Seasons Centre, Hospice, Juvenile Diabetes, Dyslexic Learning Centre, and the Shriners Hospital.

Floyd’s great friends, people who occupied much of his respect, included his brother Allan, and fellow businessmen Rayner McCullough, Jack Wallwin, Ron Stewart, Bill Caldwell and so many more. Most important to Floyd are three grandchildren, Alexa, 15; Maclain, 13; and Olivia, 9.

He’s such a great example of what’s good in our lives… the opportunity to see potential, the courage to seize it, and the energy to work like crazy to make it happen.

Sinton family, friends, employees, associates will be celebrating Floyd’s life this Saturday (March 28) at Steckley Gooderham Funeral Home, Worsley St. Visitation from 12:30-3:30, service at 3:30, conducted by very good friend Pastor Dwayne McCarty. Memorial donations to Hospital Simcoe or Shrine Hospital Canadian Unit, Gait Lab Project (for children).

Thanks, Floyd.

One Comment

  1. Dam Donna…you can put more History and more ‘feeling” in your short testimonials, than most writers could ever hope to achieve with a catalogue of “facts”. I believe, you and Fred Grant would have “got along” famously, reflecting and telling stories while sitting on his front porch! Good writers, news reporters and editors, as well as good historians seem to share a common thirst for fact(s). But good storytelling Historians; like yourself, bring out the “personal aspect” that bring history alive for reader. Floyd and all the others, whom you “eulogized” in testimonials and reflection, are fortunate to have “you”, say a few words, telling their story. Thanks, Donna

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