Summer won’t be the same without “The Cotton Candy Man”


By Sheena Smith (special to

As the hot weather approaches and Sault Ste. Marie schools send their children off to enjoy summer activity events like community days, fairs and festivals, etc there will be someone familiar missing from the summer scene. William Leonard was known to many as “the cotton candy man” passed away on Saturday, June 11th at ARCH Hospice.

Local children from all over the city would run excitedly to buy cotton candy when they heard the carnival music in their neighborhood. It became a much talked about summer tradition.

Bill worked alongside his, Betty (Elizabeth) for many years selling everything from sausages, cotton candy, slushies, and even pretzels at Canada Day celebrations, Fairs and Community Day events in Sault Ste. Marie and area.

Even though he was in pain, he always mustered the strength to put on his special shirt, vest and hat and more importantly his happy face for children.

Bill worked a variety of labor jobs throughout his life. His favorite job was working in a produce department of a grocery store called Red & White. He loved fresh fruits and vegetables. He was blessed in the sense that he was able to find his purpose by following his passion and interests. His passion was to help others in need and interests included: being a drummer in the Legion band as well as entertaining in local bands for over 40 years. He won an award for selling the most “poppies” during Remembrance Day activities. He volunteered his time to play at Senior Citizen homes.

Another interest of his was watching and cheering on his son, race driver Rick Leonard at Laird Fair grounds and other venues. He got his sons Rick and Kip interested in race tracks as young boys by taking them to watch races.

Over the years so many people young and old have benefited because of the kindness of Bill and his wife, Betty. They have generously given time, energy, money to our local soup kitchen, St. Vincent du Paul, SAH. They contributed generously when Betty’s daughter, Sheena went on a humanitarian mission to Africa and have donated to Soup Kitchens in Florida. They help whenever and where ever they can. He was the kind of guy to give you the shirt off his back if you needed it more. One time, in Florida a Sheriff had a flat tire; Bill changed it for him so the Sheriffs uniform would stay clean.

William Leonard had great faith in God and made prayer a daily part of his routine. He was grateful for each day and counted his blessings. He adored his children and step children: Evelyn, Rick, Kim and Kip, Dalton, Sheena and Shaun.

He was fondly known as “Papa Willie” and “Grandpa Bill” by his many grandchildren and great grandchildren. His eyes lit up when his grandchildren entered a room. He enjoyed interacting with them and talking in his humorous “Donald Duck” voice. He always got a great deal of laughter from them for that act.

During his final days, he spent time at ARCH Hospice where he was comforted and cared for so well by the many wonderful staff and volunteers. It was so great to see a man so giving getting to experience and live some priceless memories with his family and friends. He and Betty recently renewed their vows at ARCH to celebrate their upcoming 29th wedding anniversary on June 19th.

Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”

William (Bill) Leonard will be remembered by many for the love he put into giving and the happiness that he brought to so many. He made a difference simply because he lived, loved and served. We rest assured knowing he is safe in the arms of Jesus. A private memorial service was held in his honor. Donations to ARCH gratefully appreciated.


Comments are closed.