Road builder. Patriach. Friend. Dessert-lover. Born Aug. 9, 1928, at Island Grove, Ont.; died Sept. 2, 2016, in Kelowna, B.C., of natural causes; aged 88.
Living on the south shore of Lake Simcoe, in Island Grove, Ont., George and Arlene Link taught their son Lawrence to appreciate the opportunity to work hard, to receive an education and to succeed.
The eldest son among five children, Lawrence contributed to the small family business – building, selling and maintaining the local cottages of Torontonians. Lawrence would say with pride that despite living at the lake, he never learned to swim a single stroke. "Because," he said, "it is impossible to swim when you are holding on to a lawn mower."
When he reached high-school age, his mother sent him to Newmarket, Ont., about 35 kilometres south, to live with a host couple while he attended school. They remained his lifelong friends. He worked part-time at their butcher store, and they saw him graduate high school in 1943 at the young age of 15. Lawrence's favourite teacher arranged a job for him with Warren Brothers Construction, and he boarded a train to Stellarton, N.S.
It was in Stellarton at a Saturday dance that he met Grace Mattie, youngest daughter in an Acadian family of 18 children. Perhaps it was Lawrence's quiet confidence that won her over, or his blue eyes, but certainly it was not his dancing. They wed in 1948. Their first of three sons, Lawrence Jr., was born in 1950. A promotion took the family to Toronto in 1952, followed shortly by the arrival of two more sons, John and Richard.
Lawrence spent more than 40 years at Warren, where he demonstrated a rare combination of humility, dignity, discipline and vision. He served through several ownership changes as Warren Paving's principal architect. In 1979, when Larry Tanenbaum's Kilmer Group bought Warren, "the two Larrys" would spend the next 15 years combining their entrepreneurial instincts and long-term vision to grow the Warren Paving and Materials Group businesses, employing more than 2,000 Canadians from coast to coast.
Lawrence was the same man at home as he was in business: humble, eminently fair and totally unassuming. It was these values that he tried to instill in his children from an early age.
In retirement, Lawrence's life took a new path. He moved to British Columbia and lived quietly and privately in West Vancouver. He enjoyed gardening, frequenting the cafés of Dundarave and Ambleside villages and took daily Seawall walks, often with his dearest friend, Jeanie.
During the Kelowna wildfires in 2003, my family and I were evacuated from our home. We landed unexpectedly on Dad's doorstep, three-year-old daughter in hand, exhausted and resigned to the possibility of losing our home. Late that evening, Dad joined me for a glass of wine in his office. He listened to my story and reminded me that "things can be replaced." He further assured me that my family could consider his home our home, "for as long as it takes."
Fiercely independent, Lawrence reluctantly accepted the transition to residential care in Kelowna. He would introduce himself to fellow residents as a proud "graduate of the school of hard knocks" and a road builder.
I will remember his wisdom, generosity, support of friends and family, and, in particular, how he treated his parents.
John Link is Lawrence's son.