Robert, Leo Albert
April 5, 1949 — March 22, 2023
Surrounded by his loving family in his final days, and with his wife of 43 years at his side, Leo Robert passed away peacefully on March 22, 2023, at the age of 73, after a valiant battle with cancer.
He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by his wife Debbie; son Blake (Sara); daughter Chantal; and his beloved grandchildren Addison, Elodie, and Drew. Also, left to cherish his memory are his brother Aurele; sisters Diane, Helene, Suzanne, and Lucie; his nieces and nephews who all adored their uncle Leo; and the extended family and close friends who were woven into Leo’s life over so many years.
He was welcomed into Heaven by his parents, Hervey and Germaine Robert (née Boucher); brother Roland; and the extended family and good friends who were waiting for him and no doubt had a cigar ready for his arrival.
Leo was born in Matheson, Ontario in 1949 and raised in the nearby town of Val Gagne. After high school, he completed his training as a heavy-duty mechanic at Cambrian College in Sault Ste. Marie and took a job in his trade at Ontario Pulp and Paper in Manitouwadge, Ontario. It was in Manitouwadge that he would form several lifelong friendships, which also became life-changing when they decided to move west to Fort McMurray in 1975.
In Fort McMurray, Leo first worked for Canadian Bechtel who were constructing the original Syncrude mine. It was while working for Bechtel that he met his bride-to-be, Debbie (née Cameron). Leo and Debbie were married in 1980 and completed their family with the arrival of son Blake, in 1981, and daughter Chantal, in 1984.
1980 was also the year he founded L. Robert Enterprises, which began with a single mechanic’s truck and grew to become a highly-regarded heavy equipment repair, rental, welding, and fabrication business serving the oilsands with a workforce of over 400 people. Leo knew the value of the skilled trades and was instrumental in advancing trades training in northeastern Alberta through support of the Registered Apprenticeship Program, CAREERS: The Next Generation, and the trades education programs at Keyano College to name a few. He was also well-known for providing many employment opportunities at L. Robert Enterprises so that apprentices could learn the skills they needed to advance their careers.
Beyond business, Leo was a generous philanthropist supporting many causes including countless minor league sports teams, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, the Northern Lights Regional Health Foundation, the Keyano College Foundation, Rotary House, and the 2004 Arctic Winter Games. He also served as the co-chair of the 2003 Alberta Seniors Games.
After a successful and rewarding career, Leo and Debbie sold the business and retired to Kelowna, BC in 2006. There, he and Debbie joined many friends who had relocated to the Okanagan and created even more friendships in their new home, where he could usually be found tending to the lawn in his orchard or hosting guests at the bar in his garage.
With retirement came the opportunity to travel the world, including trips to Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and Egypt, as well as experiencing Disneyland with each of his grandchildren. Perhaps his favourite trip of all, though, was a visit to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick where he was able to reconnect with so many friends from his time in Fort McMurray. Leo and Debbie also enjoyed ten wonderful winters at their second home in La Quinta, California, filled with sunshine and the company of friends and family.
His philanthropic spirit also made its mark in Kelowna, with generous support for organizations such as the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation, the BC Cancer Foundation, and the Canadian Cancer Society. And, though he was never one to seek accolades, he was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the community and in business on multiple occasions, including as a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; the Alberta Centennial Medal; and the Canadian Institute of Mining Fellowship, and with the naming of a new industrial park in Fort McMurray in his honour.
Leo was an unforgettable, larger-than-life personality, and we are grateful for the legacy of wonderful memories he has left for us all to cherish – especially over a cigar, a glass of Steam Whistle beer, or his favourite Willie Nelson songs.
Cremation has taken place per his wishes, and a celebration of his life will be held at a later date.
No flowers, please. But, if you wish to commemorate Leo, please consider a donation in his memory to one of the organizations who provided him with exceptional care and comfort through his final journey: Hospice House Kelowna, the BC Cancer Foundation, and the Kelowna General Hospital.
If you wish to send a condolence, post photos, or share a memory, please scroll down the page to the area called “Condolences”.
Leo, you will be missed.