(Aug. 22) TORONTO — Even in retirement, David MacKay was a leader, according employees of the company he co-founded, Toronto-based potato distributor MacKay & Hughes Ltd.

Even after his death, they say, they continue to feel his presence.

“His legacy will live on, that’s for sure,” said Tom Hughes, whose father, Tom Sr., co-founded the firm in 1973.

MacKay, who with his partner had built their company into one of the largest potato and vegetable distributors in Canada, died Aug. 14 while playing golf on Prince Edward Island.

MacKay, 69, had retired from the company in 1986 but remained a presence at the company, the younger Hughes said.

“He was basically a very hands-on businessman,” Hughes said. “When he was here, he saw the changes in the potato business coming, and he was responsible for importing potatoes to keep the business he built for his customers. He then started importing potatoes when PEI didn’t have them.”

MacKay, a native of Victoria, Prince Edward Island, moved to Toronto as a young adult.

He and Tom Hughes Sr. founded their company after having worked together for Montreal-based FW Ward & Sons Ltd., in Montreal and Toronto for nearly 20 years, the younger Hughes said.

“They started the company in a small office, basically brokering potatoes, specializing in PEI potatoes and shipping mostly on rail cars,” Hughes said.

Tom Hughes Sr. retired from the company in 1990, the younger Hughes said.

Hughes Jr. added that MacKay would be remembered for his generosity.

“For me he was almost like an uncle,” Hughes said. “I remember Dave always as a big, strong man with this great big heart and huge smile and a really big, happy laugh. Other people remember him as a very generous businessman who helped people when they were down and out. He fought for every penny, but he’d give away dollars, too, to help people.”

MacKay’s survivors include his wife, Lynn, of Mississauga; daughters Debra Grubbe of Calgary, Alberta, Judy Taccogna and Kim MacKay, both of Toronto; and six grandchildren.

MacKay’s first wife, to whom he had been married 44 years, preceded him in death, Hughes said.

A memorial service was held Aug. 24 at Port Credit, Ontario. Burial was in North Tryon, Prince Edward Island.