OHS Remembers David C. Onley, Former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (1950-2023)

The Ontario Historical Society deeply mourns the passing of David C. Onley, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and honorary patron of the OHS, on January 14, 2023.

Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley and OHS Board of Directors
Ontario Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley (centre), Mrs. Ruth Ann Onley, and the OHS Board of Directors at the OHS’s 125th Anniversary reception, Queen’s Park, November 5, 2013 (Photo: Dukát Photos)

Mr. Onley was a champion for the OHS, attending many of our member groups’ events and celebrations.

On November 5, 2013, the OHS was honoured by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s hosting a reception at Queen’s Park to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of The Ontario Historical Society. Photographs of the event are available on the OHS’s Facebook page.

20131105 Ruth Ann Onley, David Onley, Brad Rudachyk

At the reception, after bringing greetings on behalf of the OHS, OHS president Dr. Brad Rudachyk presented to His Honour a certificate of recognition (above, with Mrs. Ruth Ann Onley) which read: “The Ontario Historical Society presents to The Honourable David C. Onley, 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and honorary patron of the OHS, this certificate of achievement in recognition of your dedication to public service and, in particular, to making Ontario’s history and heritage more accessible to all of its citizens.” (Photo: Dukát Photos)

The following text is a copy of the speech delivered by His Honour David C. Onley.

Mr. Rudachyk, Mr. Leverty, members and friends of the OHS:

I am delighted to welcome you on this happy occasion! The Ontario Historical Society has enjoyed the patronage of our lieutenant governors since its very beginning. So it gives me great pleasure to invite you here, to mark the 125th anniversary of Ontario’s pre-eminent historical society.

Today, we have invited all the past presidents [of the OHS]. And one by one, each will go upstairs to the Music Room to record reminiscences about the OHS through the years. As a former broadcaster, I am impressed that the OHS is embracing new media, to better serve and expand its membership. Your enhanced website does that job well.

Even the venerable journal Ontario History will be going digital, to bring our province’s stories to a wider audience. That anniversary project is an ambitious one, as the journal has been going since 1899 and includes a treasure trove of articles, written by a “who’s who” of Ontario historians.

On behalf of all Ontarians, I wish you success with ventures like these, as the OHS rises to the challenge of reinventing itself, in light of the new opportunities of this digital age. That flexibility is likely the reason for the Society’s amazing longevity. Not only have you preserved our past, but you’ve found ways to bring it alive for each succeeding generation.

The writer Henry James once said: “It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.” Fortunately, both the OHS and this vice-regal office do a lot to encourage that tradition-building process here in Ontario.

One of our most recent projects, is the exhibition you see on these walls – also available on my website. It celebrates extraordinary Ontarians, down through the years. In the dining room, we start by showing historical figures like Alexander Graham Bell and Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson, who were contemporaries of the founders of the OHS. As the chronology continues, we show our contemporaries – for example, author Alice Munro, this year’s Nobel Laureate for Literature. Like the work of the OHS, her insightful writing shines a penetrating light on Ontario’s rural roots.

There are so many ways to celebrate our history. The OHS certainly takes a comprehensive approach in helping Ontarians to honour and treasure our past.

I am thrilled that the OHS has been promoting accessibility, to ensure that Ontario’s historical resources are available to all people, including those with disabilities. I am told that the OHS Accessible Heritage Tool Kit helps many organizations to chart a viable course towards fully accessible facilities, programs, exhibitions and services. Think of the enrichment that will bring to countless lives!

As Patron of the OHS, I encourage you to embrace these initiatives and explore further possibilities. As a life-long history buff, I’m encouraged when I see your work thriving.

As the representative of Her Majesty The Queen in Ontario, I congratulate the members and friends of The Ontario Historical Society as we celebrate this 125th anniversary. I especially thank the board of directors, past presidents, and past and present staff and volunteers for all that you have done to preserve and present Ontario’s historical legacy. May that legacy be valued for generations to come! Thank you.


The Ontario Historical Society deeply appreciates Mr. Onley’s public service for all the citizens of Ontario.

Rob Leverty
Executive Director
The Ontario Historical Society