Dr. Webster-Stratton’s father, Len, had a great impact on her and The Incredible Years business. Len was an incredible mentor and demonstrated a remarkable ability to embrace change. His life story exemplifies many of the core values of IY, such as adaptability and collaboration. Below is the memoir Carolyn wrote about her father after he passed away.
Leonard Channell Webster
In his memoir Len Webster, a WWII veteran, wrote: “Growing up in the 30’s as a teenager during the Great Depression, I thought I would not reach the age of thirty.” On December 24, 2014 Len died at the age of 96. In his remarkable photographic memoir, “Ninety and Still Remembering”, he leaves his family with a story of his adventures and a record of an adaptable, curious, and loving man. Len was a loving father and husband. He was also a computer and Photoshop geek and had a passion for Canada, world affairs, and cars. He continued driving a 2010 Lexus convertible, visiting friends, and eating out at his favorite restaurants until his 95th year.
Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Len grew up in nearby North Hatley, which he declared “the most precious jewel in the Eastern Townships.” He was educated at Bishop College School in Lennoxville where he enjoyed playing hockey, skiing, and serving as the quarterback and MVP of the football team. He also was a modest bugler in the cadet corps. Len described his years at BCS as influential, writing: “The discipline, relationships and military training at BCS made a lasting impression on my character and general behavior.” In 2011 Len funded the Len and Mary Webster Award For Excellence at BCS to inspire students to become effective leaders and doers and to honour seniors who exemplified virtues of excellence. He defined excellence as acting with responsibility, openness, positivity, integrity, commitment, demonstrating good judgment and people skills, and being organized, dependable, proactive. All of these virtues describe Len himself.
Len went on to study in Boston at the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance. About his time at Bentley Len wrote: “It was a tough and uncompromising system, but if you succeeded you had a job. I was proud to be among the graduates of the Twentieth Annual Commencement in Boston on June 14, 1939.”
From 1941-45 he served as a commissioned officer during WWII with the Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Until 1943 he ran a radar station (RAF Lakka) in Freetown, Sierra Leone, called White Man’s Graveyard. A clipping from the Toronto Star reported, “In one jungle spot we found Flight Lieutenant L.C. Webster. Not only had he built a station and installed equipment, but he was mayor and lord to nearby villagers. He had got them to clean up the place, sweeping mud streets every morning so that Rod said you could eat a meal on them.” Len had befriended many of the villagers as well as the village chief and went out boating with them. Next he was posted to the Shetlands as a coordinator of 5 radar stations.
In January 1944 his orders were to report to the Scientific Center at RAF Malvern for training in a new, highly secret technology called Oboe MK/V. Len wrote: “It would reverse my wartime role from defense to assault. What’s more, it would ultimately change my personal life.” There he met “the blonde”, Mary Allinson Pattinson, a commissioned officer with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) at RAF Deal, Kent. They worked together as part of the secret Royal Air force Pathfinder bombing control system. After a brief wartime courtship, they married in Putney, England August 1944, during an air raid that damaged the church property and nearly cancelled the wedding: “I walked the streets of London wondering what I was getting into, little knowing that it would be sixty-four years of a very happy relationship.”
After the war they lived in Toronto and then in Stratford, Ontario for 18 years. Len worked for O-Cedar of Canada first as production manager and then marketing manager, vice president and finally as general manager. His strengths were design and product development and he was the registered inventor of the O’Cedar sponge mop: “I designed this so women didn’t have to wash floors by crawling on the floor”. Mostly it was his collaborative nature, innovative spirit and his ability to engage people in a friendly manner with a twinkle in his eyes that lead to his successful career. One of his former employees recently wrote him saying, “The years I worked with you are the most memorable of my career.” The O-Cedar Company went through several acquisitions with Len becoming President of Drackett Canada and later moving to Oakville to become Executive Vice President of Bristol-Myers, Canada. In 1975 after 35 years with various amalgamations of the company he retired. However, his retirement was short lived as he went on to be President of the Canadian Direct Sellers Association for 10 years and then helped direct a sales company that distributed children’s books. He finally fully retired at 75 years.
During his time in Stratford he was actively involved with volunteer work with community services such as the Rotary club, YMCA, Golf Club, and by acting as the General Hospital Chairman from 1964-68. However, he wrote that: “The highlight of my community involvement was the Stratford Shakespearean Festival where I was proud to serve as board member for twelve seasons, and its president for two years… My alliance with the arts had no preparation. It all happened because I was there at the right time, interested and willing to serve.” Len later became chairman of Ontario Co-ordinated Arts Services (1968-71) and on the Board of Distinguished U.S. Council of Arts. In his memoirs he says, “Were it possible to slip back and savour a period, Stratford would be at the top of the list.”
In addition to his work, Len was a great photographer and moved easily from printing in his own dark room to digital format. When he was 90 he had one of his first photography exhibits and enjoyed crafting stunning Christmas cards on Photoshop. He loved golf, bridge, fishing and drifting in his motorboat in Florida. But most of all he loved people.
Len was a loving and committed husband. In the last few years of Mary’s life, he was her primary caregiver 24-7 until she died at age 90. He said this was a very happy time in his life. He is survived by three children; Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ralph Webster and Jim Webster who will miss his passion, vitality, youthful perspective, adaptability, and joy of life. He has 7 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. His family feels extremely lucky to have had his love, friendship and inspiration for so long.
In his last Christmas card (2012) entitled “Be As Youthful as Your ‘Self’ Permits” he said, “We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our viewpoint and how we live our life. In youth we begin with vitality and freshness – then it’s change; so we must master change before allowing it to master us. My sons tell everyone that ‘I’m ninety-four going on seventy-five’— most days I agree”.