Ron Lynch: one of the community builders who took Barrie to its city status

Column 131


Ron Lynch

1932 – 1914

“One Hundred Percent!”

Suffering horribly from recurring pneumonia and respiratory problems, when doctors and nurses entered his room at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, and asked Ron how he was doing, he’d smile and say “one hundred percent!”

That was the mantra with which Ron lived his life.

At age 82, Ron left his earthly address on Thursday, October 16, having struggled with his lungs for at least a couple of years.

Ron’s death represents a true loss to me, since we began our working relationship in 1979 and carried on a business mentorship for 35 years. And so, I will be much more personal and reflective in this piece than I usually am.

Born in Hamilton, raised during the Great Depression, a child during World War Two, a young man when he married Joanne Gilmore in 1956, Barrie is better, stronger, richer for Ron’s presence here.

A husband, father, son, friend, grandpa, Ron Lynch was first and foremost a community builder.

He researched Barrie, Peterborough, Sudbury looking for the right place to ‘grow’ a business and chose Barrie, on the shores of Lake Simcoe, as the location to open L&E Paper. L for Lynch, and E for super salesman Bob Eyers, his business partner for over 20 years. The company thrived.

Ron arrived in Barrie and Mayor Les Cooke and former mayor, Willard Kinzie helped him find a location in the old Underhill shoe factory building on Dunlop St E until Ron was able to set up shop at 165 Brock St.

“One Hundred Percent!”

That’s what Ron gave to business.

L & E provided coarse paper and industrial cleaning and maintenance products as well as hospitality items to the hotel industry and as business grew, L & E grew, moving to a building custom-built for the company, 10,000 square feet at 63 Morrow Rd. Additions ultimately pushed that building to 40,000 square feet and 60 employees.

It was during that time that Ron hired my company to produce a corporate newsletter for L&E, part education about new products, and part celebration about achievements, events, and staff news. We published four times a year. At that time I was producing corporate publications for most of Barrie’s large corporations. As former newspaper editor, I also knew Ron through his Rotary membership as he was an active member of the affectionately called ‘old boys club.’

When the L & E building was leveled in May, 1985, by the infamous tornado that whipped through the southwest section of Barrie, Ron was quick to re-group, finding a temporary location in the deserted GE building (now Barrie by the Bay), and more permanent-temporary location on Bayview Dr in the vacant Rockwell International building. He expanded to Peterborough in 1987.

The day after the tornado, Ron phoned my business line and called me over to the second floor of the GE building. He wanted a press release—quick—to go out to all local media to let the community know that L&E was out, but not down! And that’s the way we played the story. Ron was all action during that time, directing his business from temporary desks and chairs, conducting salvage operations, dealing with insurance, checking on safety of staff…

Ron instigated a buying group for all companies in his business—competitors, really—and called it Balpex. It enabled businesses like his to benefit from price reductions by buying together. It was a novel move at the time.

Ron retired in 1996, selling his company to a competitor, Crawford Packaging.

When Ron retired, by then we were meeting regularly as I asked advice on any number of things for my growing business. “Ron, when you were able to hire your very first employee, how did you decide what that employee would do? Answer: “I looked at all the things I was good at and then at all the things I wasn’t good at and I found someone who was good at those things and hired that person.” Makes sense.

We always met in October for some kind of pumpkin soup. It became a bit of a joke.

Ron was 64 when he sold L&E. He felt way too young to me to be retiring, but he kept saying it was time. He gave me some good advice then, too.

It took a whole community to help home owners and business owners recover from the devastating impacts of the tornado and Ron kept his eye tightly on business.

If business was his first priority, family was definitely second. It sounds unfair to put things in this order, but to build and maintain and grow a successful business, the great price usually paid is by the family. And, after devotion to family came community.

The Lynch kids (now parents themselves) remember their dad going to the office every Sunday, and always returning home with a bucket of Laura Secord ice cream. Always. His gift for his absence.

“One Hundred Percent!”

That’s what Ron gave to Barrie.

Ron was a community man. Along with leader-colleagues (Bill Caldwell, Ed Harper, Ted Long, Jack Wallwin, Bob Hunter, Bob Williams, Bob Tuck, Millet Salter and others) Ron rose to the top of every organization he joined.

President, Barrie Chamber of Commerce • Board member, YM-YWCA • President, Georgian College Board of Governors • President Royal Victoria Hospital Foundation • President Royal Victoria Hospital Board of Directors • Barrie Rotary Club President, Ron also helped found the city’s second club, Barrie Huronia, and received Rotary’s highest honour, the Paul Harris Fellow, twice.

Rotary’s four way test was Ron’s absolute mantra for life at all levels. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Ron moved fast in his decisions, directed by these four tests.

I must make a note about Rotary here. Ron was bordering on senior service when, in 1993, Rotary opened its doors to its first female members. It was a difficult time for Rotarians of senior ages, and many quit the club over this issue. Mine was one of the first names put forward. I was turned down for membership. Ron and I talked about this. I was disappointed. And so was he. He was caught between the attitudes of his colleagues and his affection for me.

Lunch. Friday lunch with his best friends was in Ron’s calendar forever, never to be missed. It is here that he relaxed, joked, shared thoughts, accepted and gave ideas, and received the love that a group of men gives to each other in camaraderie.

“One Hundred Percent!”

Pride in family, in children and grandchildren, Ron shared with Joanne the concern that every parent has for their kids’ directions. He cheered Jennifer (Gord Schurr), Greg (Tanya) and Stephany along their lives’ paths. He was proud beyond measure of his grandchildren, Kyle, Erin, Will, Kennedy, Alexa, and Maclain.

He willingly gave this mantra to his grandchildren as they move forward in their lives.

He never spent time complaining about his challenges, his health, his worries. He responded to questions and concerns always with the same “One Hundred Percent!”

Town to City, “One Hundred Percent!”

Barrie became a city under Ron Lynch’s watch. Not all by himself, but in the company of community leaders who had a vision and were willing to put the time, energy, and money into projects to pushed Barrie from 24,000 to 46,000 to 72,000 to 97,000 to 115,000 to today’s 150,000.

We have many to thank. And Ron Lynch is one of them.

And, now, with literally scores of business clients under my own wing, I can share some of what Ron Lynch taught me.

First, keep the work things you love for yourself. Always. Hire your weaknesses.

Second, be sure to say thanks to the people who boost you up, or who scold you with good intention.

Third, sell the business but keep the building. Put them always under separate ownership so one generates revenue when the other is gone.

Fourth, take time to share what you know. Ron was generous in his time with me and we enjoyed each other enormously. And my business clients have benefitted from what Ron shared.

A final story… I visited Ron at RVH, the place he lead for so long… where he lay in a private room, trying to breathe and not doing very well. Oxygen tank at his side.

“One Hundred Percent” he said when I went in. We laughed. “I came to tell you that I now know why you sold your business,” I said, referring to an event more than 40 years old. “You sold because you just couldn’t get the computer thing, didn’t you?”

He nodded. “It was just too much, too different from how we’d always done everything. It was time to have other people who understood this stuff, take over.”

I nodded. “I get it, finally. I’m feeling the same way about Social Media. I think I just don’t have the interest.”

Ron rolled his eyes… social media? What in blazes is that?

I gave him a hug and left. It was the last time I saw him. But Ron, dear friend, you will perch on my shoulder, always with sound advice. It’s fitting that you took your leave in October… it was always October that we met for pumpkin soup!

Ron’s family invites friends, neighbours, colleagues to Steckley Gooderham Funeral Home, Worsley St, for visitation on Tuesday, October 21 from 2 to 4 pm and 7 to 9 pm. Funeral mass will occur at St John Vianney Church, corner of Innisfil St and Baldwin Lane on Wednesday, October 22 at 1 pm. A time for visiting, remembrance and visiting will occur in the church fellowship room after the service.

Flowers are always lovely at this time, but the family asks that memorial donations be directed to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre Foundation ( for a gift that will carry Ron’s memory forward.

Thanks, Ron.