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Obituary

WILLIAM GRAEME (BILL) LEITCH (published on January 10, 2009)



WILLIAM GRAEME (BILL) LEITCH Bill died peacefully on January 2, 2009 at Grace General Hospital at the age of 94 years. He was born September 28, 1914 to parents Jim and Ethel Leitch of Winnipeg. Bill is survived by Inez, his dearly beloved wife of 69 years, daughter Janet Beaton (Norman), brother Lesley (Diane), sister Connie, and sister-in-law Berniece. Bill was a native Manitoban whose pioneer roots stretched back four generations to the 1870s. His love of the prairies and the prairie landscape was a strong theme throughout his life. During his youth, Bill was an enthusiastic Boy Scout and in 1930 was a member of the team that won the Wallace Nesbitt Junior Championship First Aid Competition. At this time, he also developed a lifelong love of nature and the outdoors that was fostered during boyhood waterfowl hunting expeditions with his father on Lake Manitoba. These early experiences, together with his formal education, would lead to his becoming one of North America's more well-known and distinguished waterfowl biologists. Bill attended Wesley College prior to entering the University of Manitoba from which he graduated in 1938 with a B.Sc. degree in zoology and geology. In 1939, he enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot officer, retiring in 1945 with the rank of squadron leader. Following the war, Bill enrolled at the University of Toronto where he did post graduated studies in wildlife management. Returning to Winnipeg, he continued his studies at the University of Manitoba and graduated in 1952 with a Master of Science degree in wildlife ecology. Bill dedicated 38 years of his working life to his association with Ducks Unlimited (Canada). It was the happy marriage of a career and an avocation. He first joined Ducks Unlimited in 1939 as a field biologist following his graduation from the University of Manitoba. After the war, he re-joined the company and in 1951 was appointed Chief Biologist, a position he held for 26 years until his retirement in 1977. His published works include: Ducks and Men: Forty Years of Co-operation in Conservation (1978), Fireside Waterfowler: Fundamentals of Duck and Goose Ecology (1987), and numerous technical and professional papers. During his long life, Bill received many recognitions for his work in waterfowl conservation. Two that were dearest to his heart were the Professional Wildlife Conservation Award bestowed by the Province of Manitoba and the establishment of the William G. Leitch Habitat Project, in his beloved Couteau Hills of Saskatchewan by Ducks Unlimited (Canada). Bill was an avid skeet shooter and was one of the founding members of the Winnipeg Skeet Club, serving as its president in 1966. He was the Manitoba Skeet Champion in 1963 and the 410 Gauge Champion in 1969. He remained an enthusiastic skeet shooter until the final months of his life and found great enjoyment in the strong friendships he established over the years with his fellow shooters. Bill was noted as a man of uncompromising integrity, a true gentleman. He possessed a keen intellect and an inquiring mind that never ceased to take delight in exploring and debating ideas. In his later years, he loved to go on walks through the Assiniboine Forest identifying native plants and grasses and each spring enjoyed seeing old friends , as he called them, re-emerge with the melting snow. A thoughtful and contemplative man, who throughout his life felt a strong bond with nature, he was fond of quoting several lines from his favourite poem that he felt best expressed his love of waterfowl and his reverence for the natural world. Dark flying rune against the western glow It tells the sweep and loneliness of things, Symbol of Autumns vanished long ago Symbol of coming Springs! Bill's family would like to express their sincere thanks to the many friends who have been so kind and helpful during this difficult time and to the wonderful staff at the Wellington for all of their thoughtful assistance. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to a charity of choice. A celebration of Bill's life will be held in the Spring at a date to be announced.


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