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Margaret McBurney
In Memory of

Margaret Isobel McBurney

1931 - 2018

Obituary of Margaret McBurney

Margaret Isobel (McElroy) McBurney     Feb 27, 1931 to Nov 17, 2018

Margaret was born in Regina, Saskatchewan to (the late) Harold Clarence and Ethel Irene (Murdoch) McElroy. Growing up during the Depression, she learned from them how small acts of kindness could impact others’ lives. It was a lesson she practiced for the rest of her life. 

In 1954 Margaret received her Bachelor of Interior Design (University of Manitoba) - the first woman to earn that degree.  She practiced in Regina and London before moving to Toronto, where she worked with the Ontario Architectural Inventory (U of T) and became an author of Canadian social history, heritage buildings and architecture.  With Mary Byers, she co-authored 6 social histories: Rural Roots: Pre-Confederation Buildings of the York Region of Ontario, Homesteads: Early Buildings and Families from Kingston to Toronto, The Governor's Road: Early Buildings from Mississauga to London, Tavern in the Town: Early Inns and Taverns of Ontario, Atlantic Hearth: Early Homes and Families of Nova Scotia, and True Newfoundlanders: Early Homes and Families of Newfoundland and Labrador. She authored The Great Adventure: The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto and edited It’s All About Kindness: Remembering June Callwood. 

At the height of the AIDs crisis, she became a Founder and Board Member of Casey House Hospice, and was the building renovation Project Manager, coordinating 6 volunteer design teams, as well as the electrical, mechanical and general contractors. She was President (1998-2000) and member of the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, Director of the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation, Editor of Ontario Heritage Connection, as well as a Board member of Trinity Home Hospice, Toronto Preservation Board, Theatre Museum, and the Cabbagetown Heritage Committee. 

The early death of her father, in a plane crash, made her fiercely loyal to those she loved. She threw her substantial energy into numerous projects and causes as her lifetime moto was: “To be silent is to be complicit” (Richard Edelman) and “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke).  In 1972, when firecrackers seriously burned her son John, doctors told her that every holiday, hospital admissions of young, firecracker burn victims spiked. So she led a successful national campaign to ban penny firecrackers in Canada.  In 1980, after John was killed by a drunk driver, Margaret campaigned to tighten the national laws on drunk driving.

Predeceased by her brother Murdoch McElroy, son John (1980), ex-spouse Robert McBurney (2012), spouse D. Rodwell Austin (2002) and companion Robert Beardsley (2017). Survived by her children Jay (Jonathan Kitchener) and Megan McBurney (Robert Clegg), Austin step-daughters Janet (Wayne), Nancy (Chris) and Eleanor (Doug), grandchildren Cameron & Charlotte Kitchener, Gavin & Marlowe Clegg, Luke Maggie & Will Pearson, Meredith & Daniel Austin-Appleton, Taylor & Hilary Evans.Our sincere thanks to the Christie Gardens staff, who met the challenges of her care fully and cheerfully. Margaret passed away peacefully at age 87, in the company of her two daughters, with sunshine and music in the background. She remained charming and loving - singing right to her last day. She will be remembered for her innate kindness, intelligence, resilience and grace.  Online condolences may be made to