Remembering Donald McKenzie Mann, QC

By: John S. Hall

It is with sadness and abundant respect that I report on the passing of my colleague, mentor, partner, and friend, Don Mann, who left us on August 28, 2021. 

Don was born in Montreal and his family moved to Ancaster when he was 6 years old.  He attended Hillfield College (before its merger with Strathallen) and did one final high school year at Trinity College School in Port Hope before attending Queens University and law school at Osgoode Hall. 

After his call, Don joined the firm of McBride Hickey and became a named partner of McBride, Hickey, Green, McCallum & Mann.  When it merged with Ross & Robinson in 1975 to form Ross & McBride he was a senior partner and eventual Chairman of Ross & McBride until his retirement in 1998.

Don was a respected practitioner in the area of corporate and commercial law during his long and successful career.  He represented his clients with the highest degree of competence and was a trusted advisor.  His relationships with members of the bar was of the highest caliber.  He was ever liked and respected by clients and opposing counsel in equal degree.  It was a significant loss to the firm on his relatively early retirement.  

Don was married to his devoted wife Rosemary for fifty years until her passing and he was the devoted father to their son, Jeffery, and daughter, Julie.  Don was active in the community throughout his career, engaged in charitable and civic endeavours, including President of the Rotary Club of Hamilton, Board Chair of CAA South Central Ontario, Board member of Joseph Brant Hospital and the Hamilton Foundation. 

Will Roger famously said that “I never met a man I didn’t like.”  In the same vein, I can safely say that no one met Don Mann who did not like him.  He was a gentleman in every sense of the word.  He was a kind, conscientious, and courteous friend.  High praise for a successful lawyer indeed.   As a young lawyer, I recall Don inviting the young lawyers in the firm to his home in Burlington on Friday afternoons for a barbeque and swimming, a much appreciated respite for the apartment dwellers.  This was offered out of kindness, not obligation.  Likewise, I recall Don returning from aEuropean vacation and presenting me with a “Cartier” watch purchased from a Paris street vendor.  My recollection is that on close inspection, it might have read “Carter” and the watch only ran for about a week.  His thoughtfulness, coupled with the joke, is a testament to his character. 

I vividly recall Don taking the time to counsel me and other new partners on our new role to ease the transition into the Partnership and to avoid the inevitable pitfalls of the new relationship.  For this, I will always be grateful.  He made partnership a personal, friendly, and collegial experience, never allowing it to be measured by personal self-interest.  

Walking down the street with Don was an eye opening experience.  He seemed to know everyone we passed and he had a kind word to say to all he met and received the same in return.  These were to the largest extent personal and not professional interchanges.  All his clients were his friends, but not all his friends were his clients.  He was able to keep his universes separate.    
In 1985, Don had a serious brush with cancer and after spending months tracking down available treatments, he returned to the office looking and feeling terrible.  But his courageous presence with us inspired those in the office and hopefully by the same token, gave him the support to overcome the challenge, which he did, giving him and us many further years together.  A new bout of cancer arose in 2010 and once again, through his positive outlook, he carried on. 

Rosemary and Don travelled the world and I am sure that Don was a wonderful Canadian diplomat with his positive and friendly demeanor.  Everyone justifiably liked Don.  Don and Rosemary, until her death in 2010, lived in Burlington and had a summer home in their beloved Acton Island in Muskoka and a Florida property at Madeira Beach.  A good life, but well earned. 

Don was integral to his family, his community, and his law firm.  Simply spoken, he was a gentleman, which is high praise indeed.  He will be missed.