Obituary of Neil J. Petroff
It is with unimaginable sadness that the family of Neil J. Petroff announce his sudden passing on November 20, 2022 in Toronto at the age of 62. Born and raised in Toronto, Neil was the youngest son of the late Henry and Hinda Petroff.
Neil is survived by his wife, lifelong partner and high school sweetheart, Leanne Petroff. He will be forever loved and missed by his daughter Lauren Briggs-Lawrance (Chris) and sons Carey Petroff and Brent Petroff (Katie Pearson). Brother to the late Ian Petroff (Marlee), Penny Petroff (Neville), David Petroff (Shimona) and Mindy Gerskup (Martin); brother-in-law to Gordon Lansdown (Paula) and Alison Lansdown (David Plaxton). Neil leaves behind many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews who adored, respected, and loved him.
Neil grew up in North York and graduated from York Mills Collegiate in 1978. After earning a BBA and MBA from York University, he began his career in the financial sector with Bank of Nova Scotia, then Guaranty Trust, and Royal Trustco. In 1993, Neil joined the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTPP), where he built his career until his retirement in 2016. During this time, he won accolades and the respect of the wider industry for being a pioneer and a highly innovative thinker in the world of pension fund investing. His broad capital markets knowledge and risk-management expertise ultimately led to increased responsibilities as Senior Vice President and eventually Executive Vice-President and Chief Investment Officer, a position he was honoured to hold until his retirement.
A gentle leader who operated with steadfast integrity, Neil was recognized for his role in innovative hedge fund portfolio management when the OTPP was named 'Public Pension Fund Investor of the Year' by Alternative Investment News in 2009. He received numerous other industry awards including Chief Investment Officer of the Year and a lifetime achievement award for innovation in 2014 by the publication Chief Investment Officer. Through all this, Neil never forgot who he worked for: he said his bosses were the teachers of Ontario.
He also held positions on multiple boards including the Cadillac Fairview Corporation, RedBird Capital, Northwater Capital, NRStor and Integra among others.
Despite his many professional accomplishments, family was Neil’s top priority. He met his wife Leanne, the love of his life, when he was 16, she 15, and the rest is history. Together they shared so many adventures and, at times, incredible challenges which only strengthened their bond. Leanne was the planner and Neil was always eager to go on that next adventure. Whether it was a round the world trip with National Geographic, climbing Machu Picchu, skiing the slopes of Aspen, taking the whole family to Hawaii for his 60th birthday or just driving downtown to see a great documentary, Neil was game for it all. With great joy Neil supported his three children’s interests and endeavours with unconditional love. He dressed as a pirate on a Disney cruise with Carey, took Brent on adventures along the Mediterranean and Californian coasts, surprised Lauren and Chris with a Super Bowl trip and hosted their incredible wedding.
Family gatherings were in his blood, traditions he learned from his parent’s Hinda and Henry Petroff. Their holiday parties would often welcome more than a hundred extended family and friends while birthday celebrations were more intimate Neil and Leanne carried on these traditions, always welcoming family and friends to their homes. The Lansdown cottage on Big Hawk Lake in Haliburton was a special place where he enjoyed boat rides, kayaking, utility vehicle adventures and adding to his library of ‘Dad Jokes’. He became a professional ‘putterer’, tackling projects that included building stone walkways, decks, and fixing docks. They also shared wonderful memories with family and friends at their home at The Tuscany on Grace Bay in Turks & Caicos, where he loved to golf, read, swim in the ocean and hear about his family’s SCUBA adventures (he was our grouper fish by day, parrot fish by night).
Neil was a true athlete who enjoyed running, cycling, racquetball, poker, tennis and skiing, but his greatest passion was golf. It was one of the ways he enjoyed connecting with so many people as a member of The National Golf Club and The Donalda Club, and on courses around the world. He was sometimes known as a man of few words, but if you got him talking about golf, he could go on forever.
Beyond his personal and professional commitments, Neil was also a philanthropist. He and Leanne launched the Neil & Leanne Petroff Foundation, ensuring continued annual giving with particular interest in the SickKids Foundation and the research of Dr. Christopher Pearson at SickKids Hospital. He leaves a legacy of generosity that we are very proud of.
Neil will be remembered as a man of integrity. A gentle, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, resilient, generous, and funny pillar in our lives. He was a constant source of reassurance, guidance and inspiration, a one-of-a-kind human being who we will all miss so very, very much.
The family will be holding a private service. Friends and family are invited to join us for a visitation on December 4th from 2-4 pm & 6-8 pm at the Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles – Newbigging Chapel, 1403 Bayview Avenue (at Davisville) and early next year at The Donalda Club for a celebration of Neil’s life (date TBD). In lieu of flowers, please consider donations made in Neil’s honour, to the SickKids Foundation for “Modulating DM1 CTG/CAG Research at SickKids Hospital” (https://www.sickkidsfoundation.com/waystodonate/inmemory select “ Donate then Dedication”). Condolences may be forwarded through www.humphreymiles.com.
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