NEWS November 2nd, 2010

By Shawn Star

Don Mills loses a founder

Suburban planner Macklin Leslie Hancock's life remembered by family and community leaders

At age two, he fled China. In his late teens, he flew during the Second World War. Macklin Leslie Hancock would go on to work in such far-reaching places as Kuwait, Nigeria and Germany.

But for all his international travels, Hancock, who passed away on Sept. 14, is remembered for having an instrumental role in creating the Don Mills community, Canada’s first planned suburb.

According to his sister Marjorie Hancock, it wasn’t uncommon for Mack to be busy.

She says he was tireless and always looking for something else to do.

“He did not waste time,” she said. “He was always looking for something interesting to do … he’d always be looking through a book or something.”

In a Town Crier article from 2003, the Harvard-educated Hancock was quoted on the idea of retirement, which he had no intention of entering into.

“I really don’t want to slow down. I suppose some day maybe I’ll want to retire, but I really don’t like the idea of just sitting in front of the television. There’s more to life,” he said. “And there’s too much to get done.”

And getting things done is what he was best at. Ward 34 Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong says without the work of Hancock, Don Mills could have been just like any other suburb, and now it’s the up to the community to preserve it.

“Don Mills could have ended up being one of those grid systems that defines some of the other communities,” he said. “He made his contribution to the urban landscape of what Don Mills is, and that continues to evolve, and it will be up to us in the community to build on his legacy.”

Minnan-Wong added that Hancock brought something to Don Mills and that to this day is unique in Toronto.

“The founders of Don Mills left a stamp on the neighbourhood that is defining and distinguishable from other communities that came afterward,” he said. “Those communities are in many ways indistinguishable and what defines Don Mills is many of those things that Mr. Hancock was a part of.”

Born in China in 1925, Macklin was Hancock’s mother’s maiden name. Leslie Hancock was his father. They lived in China because his grandfather, William Macklin, was a doctor who founded the first medical building in Nanjing, which was the nation’s capital at that time.

He came to Canada at age two, and developed a love of flying. He was a pilot for the allies and flew over Japan in the latter stages of the Second World War, and started school back in Canada in 1946.

By the time he graduated along with his brother in 1949, he had already been married to his wife, Grace.

Then he took to architecture and city building, was educated at Harvard, and was one of the founders of Don Mills. And when Hancock wasn’t busy with all of that, Marjorie says he was spending time with his family.

“He was loyal — very loyal to his friends, and family,” she said. “Each member he valued for their strength, rather than lumping them together. They were all individual, with their own character.”

Majorie added while loyal is the word she uses to describe her brother, there was something else obvious about him, too.

“He was a visionary,” she said. “He was always seeing what could be done better.”

Making reference to the ancient Mexican tradition of the three deaths, wherein a person dies three times — first when the spirit leaves the body, second when the burial takes place, and lastly when the person’s name is spoken for the last time, Marjorie says it’ll be a long time before her brother sees the third.

“He’s spoken about and he’ll go on for a long time,” she said. “He’s left that kind of impression in many, many places.”