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Remembering Leonel LeBlanc (1950-2024)

Leonel LeBlanc as performer and emcee at Mabou Mines Ceilidh, August 2014. (Photo by John Gillis)


  May 22, 2024


-by John Gillis
    The community of Mabou and family and friends of Leonel LeBlanc gave a heartfelt farewell to the multi-talented gentleman on Monday, May 20th.
    Fr. Andrew Gillies, parish priest of St. Mary’s Parish, led the funeral service along with help from Fr. Allan MacMillan of Judique, Fr. Eugene Morris of Port Hood, and Deacon David Rankin of Mabou.
    Leonel passed away May 14th in Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital surrounded by family at the age of 74 after spending much of the past year battling health issues following a diagnosis of cancer last year.
    At the funeral service, Fr. Andrew Gillies spoke of Leonel’s productive life and his many talents. He spoke on the nature of grief and the pain and despair often experienced with the loss of loved ones. In his reading on the life and death of Lazarus, he noted that Leonel’s story does not end here with his passing, but continues in the lives of his family members and in the promise of everlasting life.
    Fr. Gillies noted Leonel’s love of the outdoors, which was shaped in his youth in Belle Cote and the Margarees, which would later serve him well as he went on to a career as a conservation officer with Department of Natural Resources.
    A well-respected member of the community of Mabou, Leonel was born in Cheticamp on January 1st, 1950, with family roots in nearby Belle Cote.
    Leonel grew up in a family of 10 children, the son of Francis Paddy and Adelaide LeBlanc of Belle Cote. While he attended elementary and junior high school in Belle Cote/Margaree Forks, he transferred at the age of 16 to Mabou Consolidated School. It was there he met his high school sweetheart/future wife Margaret (O’Brien) with a marriage that lasted over 51 years; seeing the birth of their two children, Jennifer and Ashley, and later, as proud grandparents to their three grandchildren.
    Leonel, his wife Margaret, and daughter Ashley had long been part of the local country and folk music community throughout Cape Breton. Together they graced stages throughout Inverness County as The LeBlanc Family, as members of Cape Breton Country band and with their numerous musical friends.
    Leonel and Margaret’s daughter, Ashley MacDonnell has continued the musical tradition and is currently a member of the country/folk/rock band, Caper, where she is a vocalist, background vocalist, and rhythm guitar player.
    Countless musicians in the area have had instruments built, maintained, or repaired by Leonel, who was a skilled luthier and patient craftsman with wood. He has created numerous violins, guitars, mandolins, and other instruments over the years and has been a generous mentor to many musicians in the area young and old, leading by example.
    In 1995, Leonel and musical friends Neil Campbell, Bill MacDonald, Patrick Lamey, and Marcellin Chaisson founded the Highland Guitar Society, which met on a regular basis with popular jam sessions for some 20 years.
    Bill MacDonald remembered his close friend Leonel in a conversation with The Oran last weekend.
    “We talked a lot over the years. He was like a brother to me. He was a man of many talents,” said MacDonald. In addition to the time they spent in the Highland Guitar Society, they would go trout and striped bass fishing together. “I have many very fond memories of house ceilidhs with Leonel and Margaret and how much their music was appreciated. I have one of his violins and my granddaughter has one too. I always remember any time you were in the middle of a project of some sort he would say: “Can I help?,” MacDonald added.
    Mabou/Port Hood councillor and musician Lynn Chisholm also shared fond memories of Leonel.
    “Leonel was a pleasure to know. I’ve never seen him without a smile on his face and a big hello when he would meet you. I’ve spent time in talent rooms with him and he was a wonderful conversationalist. He was brilliant when it came to music. When you would drop your guitar with him for repair he’d have it done in no time and when you picked it up you had sit at the table with him and play a tune. We’re going to miss you Leonel!,” said Chisholm.
     Mary Janet MacDonald of Mabou/Port Hood remembered Leonel as “a beautiful soul who was always so generous with his music.”
    Other musical friends such as Glenn MacEachern, Steve Basker, and Patrick Lamey shared stories of Leonel and noted his people skills in conversations at the Mabou hall following the service.
    Many in Inverness County and beyond will fondly remember Leonel’s guitar, fiddle, and mandolin playing and singing. He was so supportive to anyone who had an interest in music.
    Condolences to Margaret LeBlanc and all of Leonel’s family and friends on his passing.
    The following song was composed by Leonel LeBlanc for his beloved childhood home, called The Hills of Margaree:

When I was just a young lad, I used to romp and roam
O’er the hills and fields and the many streams
That surround my Margaree home
Its long majestic shoreline that borders on the sea
Turn around and gaze in wonder at the
Hills of Margaree.

My younger days were happy ones
Living in this scenic place
Where the people are hard working
With a smile upon their face

They earn a simple living on the land and on the sea
There’s pulp to cut and fish to catch along the Margaree.
Now you’ve heard about the beauty
And the happiness I’ve known
And the folks along the Margaree
This land I call my home

If you ever need a peaceful rest, there’s just one place to be
Clean air and lots of sunshine along the Margaree.
If you ever need a peaceful rest, I know a place to be
Clean air and lots of sunshine that’s my Margaree.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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