John Drinkwater Sibbald III (July 21, 1928 - March 20, 2020)
"The Squire of The Briars" passed away peacefully at 91 years on the first morning of spring, March 20, 2020, at South Lake Regional Health Centre with family at his side. Beloved husband of Barbara; father of Peter (wife Nancy Fretter, their daughters Rebekah and Maya), Hugh (wife Sheila Maxwell) and Andrew (wife Janet nee Henriksen, their children Kaitlin, Anne and John); brother of Patrick (wife Patricia nee Walkon) and Susan (husband the late Dennis Orchard). John suffered for more than two decades from vascular dementia but with the incredible help of friends, family and the community ignored it, participating fully in life. We genuinely appreciate his recent care team, Karen, Annette and Christiane; the past few months under the care team at Sunrise Senior Living of Aurora; and the tender care in his last few days from the medical team at SLRHC.
John's boundless curiousity led him to pursue an education as both an engineer and artist. Raised in a community-focused family, he shared his passions, surrounding himself and working with other talented people to respect, protect and improve this beautiful earth. His focus was his beloved Lake Simcoe and its environs.
He was a pioneer in the tourism industry. He led the way by extending the summer resort season from two to six months, and later, despite not having the obvious attraction of a ski hill, made The Briars one of the first Ontario year-round resorts. He spearheaded the Lake Simcoe Tourist Association and the Ontario Travel Association, and chaired Tourism Ontario for seven years.
He championed environmental issues long before it was popular to do so. He was Vice Chairman of the Ontario Provincial Parks Council whose goal was to work with First Peoples and non-indigenous stakeholders to preserve millions of hectares of boreal forest. His efforts were instrumental in creating LSEMS, the policy prior to the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. He was governor of the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain. Locally, he rescued the Red Barn Theatre from development, then acted as Executive Director and primary supporter for two decades before the Town of Georgina took on the role. He was also involved in the Jackson's Point Harbour Association, the BIA, and the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation.
In addition, he served as the local hospital fundraising chair, as a member of the Kin, was St. George's churchwarden of two decades, offered two of his own buildings to be designated as heritage easements, worked with the historical and naturalist clubs and countless other local projects and associations. He received the provincial Latornell Pioneer Award for Conservation and the Ontario Heritage Award. He was named the first Lifetime Lake Simcoe Champion, first Lifetime Member of the Georgina Chamber of Commerce, and with Barbara, Town of Georgina Citizens of the Year.
He also ran the resort with the help of Barbara, the family and a dedicated team, and still made it a priority to meet his guests. He loved to work with the resort's contractors, and he enjoyed the thousands of resort staff over seven decades.
As he wound down, he took great pleasure from the more intimate get-togethers on board his sailboat or with the church choir, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the Lions, the ROMEOs, Briars Golf Club and the Sutton men's group. He reveled in family dinners and never missed a hockey game, recital, musical or graduation, although occasionally had to be nudged awake for the important parts! He also loved to share his enthusiasm for his collection of historic pieces and art, many of which are Inuit and Indigenous. He was fond of animals, particularly horses and his rescue dog Sam.
He is pre-deceased by many of his lifelong friends and cousins, and was ready to be with them and his parents. Due to the pandemic, a Celebration of Life is postponed. Memorial gifts to the Alzheimer's Society of York Region, the St. George's Endowment Fund or Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation are appreciated. Please support your local Food Bank. Donations, the sharing of stories and memorial condolences may be arranged through Forrest & Taylor, Sutton, 905-722-3274; forrestandtaylor.com.