Willard Kinzie, the City of Barrie’s first mayor, died Nov. 25 at the age of 99, at Hospice Simcoe, after a short illness. He was elected mayor of the Town of Barrie in 1957 and remained at the helm to serve as the first mayor when the municipality became a city in 1959.
“Barrie has lost one of its greatest leaders and one of its greatest champions,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said. “Willard Kinzie was the first mayor of the City of Barrie and truly one of its finest. A man who’s love of Barrie and belief in its potential were unlimited.”
Born in Blair, Ontario on Sept. 26, 1919, and brought up in a Mennonite family, Kinzie served with the Canadian Firefighters during the Second World Ward and was stationed in Portsmouth during the Battle of Britain. After completing his service in the war, he would move to Barrie in 1947 and purchased Lakeview Dairy. He would acquire 52 more dairies over the next 25 years, making Lakeview one of the largest independently-owned dairies in Canada.
Kinzie, who was also one of KFC’s earliest Canadian franchisees, was elected as a Barrie alderman in 1952. Five years later he would become mayor of the Town of Barrie. After retiring from politics and the dairy business, the avid athlete would follow his love for the outdoors and, over the next 30 years, would lead hundreds of hikers around the world. One of his proudest achievements was the development of Barrie’s Waterfront Trail.
“It’s not an exaggeration to call Willard Kinzie the father of our waterfront,” said Lehman. “He saw the possibility to create a park and beach, a place for all the people of Barrie. This legacy not only delights us, it defines us. That the first thing about Barrie that most of us mention is our waterfront, is due to Willard’s vision. In more recent years, he brought the concept of a Waterfront Heritage Trail to the city, now enjoyed by residents and visitors as they walk around Kempenfelt Bay.”
Kinzie married his first wife, Ruth Snider, in 1942 and they had three children: Bob, George and Susan. The couple remained together for 67 years until her death in 2011. In 2016, he married Karen Hunter, a long-time family friend.
Kinzie is survived by his children Bob (Rykje), George (Pam) and Susan Stark (Doug) and has six grandchildren (Joel, Jason, Carolyn, Neil, Rachael and Kyle) as well as four great-grandchildren (Serena, Henry, Neko and Kaelynn).
Friends of Kinzie will be received from 3-8 p.m. on Dec. 2 at Adams Funeral Home, located at 455 St. Vincent St. in Barrie. A funeral service will be held at First Baptist Church, located at 550 Grove St. East in Barrie, at 1 p.m. on Dec. 3. Visitation is from 12 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Royal Victoria Hospital Foundation, Barrie Community Foundation Waterfront Heritage Trail, Hospice Simcoe or the Mennonite Central Committee would be appreciated by the family.
Photo: The City of Barrie’s first mayor and prominent businessman Willard Kenzie died Nov. 25 at the age of 99. City of Barrie photo