Founding president of Friends of Freman Station, Les Armstrong – dead at 80.

January 27, 2014

By James Smith.


This past Friday Burlington lost another giant as my friend and predecessor Les Armstrong passed away at the age of 80. I say predecessor as Les was the first member, and the first president of The Friends of Freeman station.

Les Armstrong and James Smith.

To say Les was the first President sounds so administrative; so matter of fact – it doesn’t really do his work saving the station justice. For me it’s like saying Sir John A was a politician, or Joseph Brant was a farmer. As our first President Les made saving our old Grand Trunk Station possible. Being part of the first board of directors of Friends of Freeman Station with community leaders such as George Curran, the late Jane Irwin and Les Armstrong as our President, made our goal of saving the old Burlington Junction Station at Freeman that much more easy. Not that saving the station has been easy, but with a profile and standing that only comes from having spent many years working for causes in our community,  

Burlington has lost two of its strongest advocates for preserving the history of the city.  Jane Irwin, who died last February  and Les Armstrong who passed away on Friday.

Les’ reputation, skill  and influence opened doors and gave The Friends of Freeman Station a certain dignity that we might not have otherwise had. Les earned  respect in Burlington not just by his long & deep roots in our town but by working to make this a place to be proud of.

When I joined the board of Friends of Freeman Station, I knew of, and had met Les over the years for several of the projects he was involved in, such as Aldershot Village Vision and the Historical Society.  I have to admit, I was more than a little intimidated, Les seemed larger than life with a knowledge and passion for the station. After about two meetings I found Les’ passion for saving the station not only  infections but also inspiring.  Les had a way of speaking to our board in such a way that we never lost sight of our goal, and encouraged all of us not to give up even when things looked bleak.

Many times after some long meetings Les and I would spend time talking. We’d talk about the station,  about his memories and connection to the station in particular and to Burlington in general. We also talked about radio and TV and shared some stories about that industry as he and my late father were contemporaries in South West Ontario many years ago. Les also told me about his father’s hardware store & how much life in Burlington has changes, and how, in some strange ways, it is very much the same place. Les loved the town he was born in and he was happy to share that love with any and all, in an easy-going manner that was really quite disarming.

He probably sold more of the Freeman T-shirts than any other member. Les Armstrong first President of the Friends of Freeman Station.

As many people know, Les was an avid sailor, and he used to end his EMail messages with the line:  “Anyone can steer a boat in calm waters”, this simple line is so very true of so many things in life and especially true of my friend Les. I truly believe that Les is docked now in much calmer waters, but we should all take Les’s motto to heart and weather what ever the seas of life may throw at us. Sail on in peace my friend, sail on to calmer waters.

The funeral for Les Armstrong will take place at the Smith Funeral Home on Guelph Line at 1:00 pm.



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2 comments to Founding president of Friends of Freman Station, Les Armstrong – dead at 80.

  • Bob Van de Vrande

    Les had a passion for Burlington and its heritage. His memory will survive not only with all those who knew him and worked with him, but also in the built architectural history of Burlington. Without people like Les we would be missing a great deal of our own history.

  • John Birch

    Les was an amazing person, who has now dropped anchor in that undiscovered harbour we will all too soon discover.

    A fine citizen, and even finer gentleman, all our lives in the community have been enriched for his being.

    May he forever enjoy fair winds and following seas.

    Kindest regards,

    John Birch, President
    LaSalle Park Marina Association