Leo Leonard, proprietor of the Griffintown Horse Palace, dies
MONTREAL - Leo Leonard, who maintained horses on Ottawa St. in Griffintown for decades, died Friday.
Leonard lovingly tended the horses at the stables next to his home, known as the Griffintown Horse Palace, which sits just south of downtown skyscrapers in a long-dilapidated area now enjoying a recent resurgence.
Leonard, 84, recently moved away from the once-vibrant area, where he stayed on after most of the homes around him were demolished or turned into warehouses. .
Clawhammer Jack, as he was sometimes called, is believed to be the last remaining member of the once-large Irish community that traditionally inhabited Griffintown, which became increasingly industrialized and depopulated over the last 40 years.
Leonard recently moved to Verdun with his longtime wife Hughuette but missed his Griffintown home so much that the two decided to move back, according to lifelong friend Denis Delaney.
In recent months the couple had moved into an assisted-living facility in Nun’s Island.
Leonard was raised in a nearby area known as Goose Village, which was demolished in 1964.
His love affair with horses began in 1940 when he helped out on a horse-drawn carriage that delivered ice to the area. He estimated that there were 3,000 horses in the area at that time.
An attempt to preserve the Griffintown Horse Palace has attracted many notable supporters, including Heritage Montreal’s Dinu Bumbaru and several city councilors.
"The best thing Leo liked to do was sit in that shack over there and have a beer and tell you a story.
You know he had hundreds and hundreds of stories to tell,” said caleche driver Judy Waldon, who used the stables alongside Leonard for 28 years.
Leonard also hid his generosity, which included such beneficiaries as a local church.
"He loved St. Gabriel's. As a matter of fact he was always giving anonymous donations to the church. Nobody knew about for many, many years," said Denis Delaney, lifelong friend.
The longtime former priest at the church praised Leonard as well.
"I got to know him quite well, because of involvement in the St. Patrick's Parade, he was very kind and very generous in helping,” said Fr. Murray McCrory.
And one of those aiming to maintain the stables amid the unstopping new construction in the area appreciated his hospitality.
"He was so open and so welcoming and always ready to speak about Griffintown and ready to have people visit the stables," said Juliette Patterson, President of the Griffintown Horse Palace Foundation.
Visitation for Leo Leonard will take place Tuesday at Feron's funeral home, corner Notre-Dame and Charlevoix, from 10 a.m. until noon, followed by a funeral service.