Memories of Leopoldina Dobrzensky

This memorial written by Sheila Ziman, friend and Haliburton Highlands Land Trust Board Member.

When I think of Leo several things come to mind: Vitamin N, intelligence, resilience, compassion, dignity & gefilte fish.  Truly they are all related and form an integral part of who Leo was.

In 2018, Leo and her daughter Margaret donated their 500-acre property and a conservation easement on another 100 acres to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust.  Margaret and Leo wanted to create a nature reserve open for all to enjoy.  They wished to name it, “Barnum Creek Nature Reserve”.  Always humble, they chose to name it after a key feature of the land.  During the opening ceremonies on October 15, 2020, Leo extolled people to come out and walk the property to get a dose of Vitamin N as scientists had recently discovered this important new vitamin and there was no better place to get a dose of Vitamin Nature than Barnum Creek Nature Reserve.

Not only was Leo a lover and observer of nature, she was also a keen historian.  When she and her husband moved to Haliburton County, she realized there wasn’t a good written history of the pioneering years of Dysart et al.  Her property had been developed alongside an early colonization road and was home to several pioneer families over the years.  Her interest and compassion for the lives of these early settlers resulted in a unique history called, “Fragments of a Dream”. The book was well received and was deeply appreciated by the descendants of these pioneer families.

For me, food has always been a window into someone’s personality.  Leo loved gefilte fish, a traditional Jewish fish dish served on holidays or Friday night meals. Once when I told her I was going to Toronto she hesitantly asked if I could bring her back some gefilte fish.  Leo was always open to new experiences and new cultures.   Her own Catholic faith was extremely important to her but it never prevented her from being curious and respectful about other faiths.  And her sweet nature was personified in her love of cookies, cakes and all things chocolate.

Leo’s life wasn’t always easy and she suffered many hardships, from the death of a son and daughter to the upheaval of fleeing Czechoslovakia after the war when she and her young family came to Canada as refugees.  But Leo was resilient and had a dignity and grace that I will always remember.  At 94, she still lived in her own home and never left it without being impeccably dressed, greeting the world with curiosity, compassion and a keen intelligence.  She was a wonderful woman and a fantastic role model for all who knew her.  I will miss her.


Greg Wickware, HHLT Chair, worked closely with Leopoldina through the land donation process. 

“Although I knew her (Leo) for only a short time, her role in encouraging the donation of the Dobrzensky properties to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust was inspirational for me. The donation will ensure her legacy, and the Dobrzensky family legacy, will be remembered by the Haliburton Community and all Canadians “in perpetuity”.