Mau­rice East was a North­ern pi­o­neer

‘Peo­ple like him don’t come around very of­ten’


He was aban­doned as an in­fant and even­tu­ally adopted in the United States. At 18, he crossed the Rain­bow Bridge into Ni­a­gara Falls. It was De­cem­ber and he wore no scarf, hat or mitts. He wore only a rain­coat and was pen­ni­less. But he was de­ter­mined to join the Royal Cana­dian Air Force.

Mau­rice East, for­mer owner of the Kil­lar­ney Moun­tain Lodge, passed away on Sept. 10 af­ter bat­tling an in­fec­tion and de­clin­ing health for a few years. He leaves be­hind his beloved wife of 53 years, Annabelle, his two daugh­ters and three sons, in­clud­ing Ted East of Kil­lar­ney Out­fit­ters.

“He was one of those peo­ple who came from ab­so­lutely noth­ing and pulled him­self up,” daugh­ter Kather­ine East says. “He was aban­doned as a child, but cre­ated some­thing marvelous. And he did it with­out seek­ing fi­nan­cial gain. He was so ex­cited about North­ern On­tario and the peo­ple and the First Na­tions peo­ple. He had a cu­rios­ity and joy in life; he loved the wild­flow­ers and the flora and fauna of life. He sucked the mar­row out of life.”

Af­ter serv­ing in the mil­i­tary dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, he be­gan his hos­pi­tal­ity ca­reer in 1959 when he mar­ried his first wife. They worked at her fam­ily’s lodge in Huntsville. Mau­rice later took over the Muskoka Sands Inn and re­vi­tal­ized the re­gion with ski hills. He even helped to es­tab­lish the Mount St. Louis ski hill along High­way 400. He founded a boys’ school, con­struc­tion com­pany and Air Muskoka, and was deeply in­volved in his com­mu­nity.

“Peo­ple like him don’t come around very of­ten,” East says. “Usu­ally peo­ple are more ego-cen­tric or brag­garts or they want at­ten­tion, and he just wasn’t one of those types. He was a real old-fash­ioned re­nais­sance man.”

In 1962, Mau­rice de­cided to head north to Kil­lar­ney. He pur­chased Kil­lar­ney Moun­tain Lodge — long be­fore there was a road lead­ing into the en­clave — and he mar­ried Annabelle two years later.

He wanted to en­sure his chil­dren got a ro­bust ed­u­ca­tion that went be­yond the bounds of the class­room. Dur­ing the warmer months, East at­tended a one-room school­house in the vil­lage of Kil­lar­ney.

“It was mostly First Na­tions peo­ple and it was Ro­man Catholic, which we are not,” she says.

Dur­ing the win­ter months, Mau­rice and Annabelle typ­i­cally took their kids south to the Ba­hamas, where they were home-schooled.

“Dad taught him­self how to sail and so we would go to the Ba­hamas and there are 700 is­lands there, most of them are un­in­hab­ited,” she says. “I knew how to clean conch and clean fish be­fore I could even walk prac­ti­cally. He taught us ev­ery­thing about the flora and fauna there, and about sail­ing . ... He was very in­ter­ested in my sis­ter and I get­ting more in­flu­ence than just the lit­tle school and that’s why he wanted to take us to the Ba­hamas to see some­thing.”

East at­tended the dra­matic arts pro­gram at Sud­bury Sec­ondary School and boarded in Sud­bury so that she could par­tic­i­pate in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

While he ran the lodge, he also worked as a spot­ter for search and res­cue mis­sion son Ge­or­gian Bay, res­cu­ing lost air­craft and ves­sels. For a time, he also ran the Sports­man’s Inn in Kil­lar­ney and launched Kil­lar­ney Out­fit­ters in 1972.

Flight was never far from Mau­rice’s heart and he also started Air Kil­lar­ney, which of­fered sight­see­ing and char­ter flights, and helped spur the es­tab­lish­ment of the air­field in the town.

Mau­rice had been told his mother was dead, but while in Eng­land, he found out she was alive and they re­united. East says her fa­ther “was not ec­static” about the re­union, but they rec­on­ciled and mama even­tu­ally moved to the lodge in Kil­lar­ney.

“She was one of my favourite peo­ple, I even had an English ac­cent when I was a kid be­cause I spent so much time with her,” East says.

Mau­rice was awarded the Queen’s Golden Ju­bilee award in 2002 for his work in the com­mu­nity of Kil­lar­ney.

Af­ter more than 50 years, Mau­rice and Annabelle sold Kil­lar­ney Moun­tain Lodge in 2015 (when he was nearly 91) and moved to Parry Sound. Dur­ing his later years, he spent time in a nurs­ing home, but he was not a good fit.

“He was such a great man, a strong vi­sion­ary, they just don’t fit well in nurs­ing homes,” East says. “He hated it and didn’t eat or drink very much. His im­mune sys­tem de­te­ri­o­rated and he got an in­fec­tion and died in three days.”

He died in hos­pi­tal on Sun­day at the age of 93. East was at his bed­side, but her sis­ter, who lives in Mi­ami, could not get away be­cause of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

“Heart­break­ingly, she’s missed the whole thing with my fa­ther,” East says. “She’s hav­ing to drive around and here he is dy­ing in the hos­pi­tal. It’s just aw­ful. I spent three nights in the hos­pi­tal with him, I slept in the same room.”

Annabelle has lost her part­ner of 53 years and as East ex­plained it, they worked, lived and trav­elled to­gether. The void is sig­nif­i­cant.

“Death sucks,” she says. “They were this unit, you know? They have a big, beau­ti­ful home in Parry Sound on the bay. It’s just sad to see her alone.”

East ex­plained that her fa­ther was an ar­dent athe­ist who did not want a fu­neral ser­vice or obit­u­ary, so true to form, the fam­ily has planned a wake to cel­e­brate his life. It takes place at the Kil­lar­ney Moun­tain Lodge on Sept. 30 from 4-6:30 p.m.

“He wanted us to have a party,” she says. “There’ll be a big party in the bar. There’ll be hun­dreds of peo­ple. There’ll be drinks and hors d’oeu­vres. Dad didn’t be­lieve in sad.”


Mau­rice and Annabelle East. Mau­rice East died ear­lier this week.


Annabelle and Mau­rice East en­joy a sum­mer day on the Kil­lar­ney Moun­tain Lodge boat.


Mau­rice East dur­ing his younger days, as a pi­lot.

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