Toronto historian and former Thornhill Cruiser, Mike Filey dies of prostate cancer at 80.
It is with great sadness that we are announcing the passing of Mike Filey, a former member and participant in the Thornhill Cruisers Car Club. Mike passed away last Saturday (July 30-2022) after suffering a long illness with prostate cancer. As a tribute to Mike, we are including a recent article written in the Toronto Sun by Joe Warmington.
“Former Sun writer Mike Filey lauded as ‘guardian of Toronto’s history’
Joe Warmington – Aug 2-2022 3:58 p.m.
Tributes are pouring in for historian and former Toronto Sun writer Mike Filey, who was in a league of his own when it came to telling stories about Toronto’s past.
Filey’s wife, Yarmila, said her husband died Saturday at the age of 80 after several months of illness.
For decades, Filey was a favourite with Sun readers who enjoyed his weekly The Way We Were column on Sundays.
“He was one of the most likeable people ever,” said Postmedia Chair Paul Godfrey, who knew Filey since he was chair of the now-defunct Metro Council in the 1970s. “He knew everything about Toronto. He loved the city just about more than anybody else.”
He was an encyclopedia or, in today’s terms, a human search engine.
“Mike Filey was a guardian of Toronto’s history who always helped put the present into perspective,” said Mayor John Tory. “His love for Toronto and its history made him a regular and very welcome caller to me as mayor.
“He always believed in this city and knew, based on his understanding of our collective past, that our best days were ahead thanks to the work, dedication and commitment of so many,” Tory added. “He will be missed.”
So will his presence and wry sense of humour. Godfrey recalled how Filey would call him to pass on “the latest joke” he had heard.
“If you were having a bad day, he would brighten it up. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. I remember when one of my sons was trying to learn what Bay St. was originally named, we called Mike who knew right away. It was Bear St. (until 1797). There wasn’t anything about Toronto he didn’t know.”
Filey relayed his knowledge in a humble and straight-forward manner.
“Mike was the least stuffy historian ever,” said iconic Sun columnist and former editor-in-chief Mike Strobel. “He really loved Toronto and knew more about its past than anyone, and better still, he could make it fun and connect it to today.”
When you needed to know something about a building, a neighbourhood, or a person, Mike was always there. He had a passion for Toronto and loved to lead tourists around the city on walking tours.
Awarded the Jean Hibbert Memorial Award for his columns and two dozen books, Filey was a graduate of North Toronto Collegiate Institute and later, from the chemical technology program at what was then known as Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. Growing up near the Honest Ed’s discount store at Bathurst and Bloor St., he later worked at Ontario’s Ministry of Environment.
“I can still see him tooling around town in that snazzy turquoise 1955 Pontiac that his wife, Yarmila, gave him,” said Strobel. “It was the perfect drive for Mike Filey.”
The car and Filey were throwbacks to Toronto’s glory days when no one locked their doors.
“When Mike passed away, an awfully large vacuum was left in the ongoing collections of the historic details of Toronto and its people. But Mike was more than that, he was a genuine nice person, that is another talent that seems to be slipping away in these times,” said his friend, Eric Conroy, who met Filey 40 years ago when they both worked at the CNE. “I will miss his sense of humour, his infectious smile and his sage counsel when consulted.”
Filey also witnessed a bit of history that tens of thousands of Leafs fans would like to see repeated.
“He was in the crowd the night the Leafs last won the Cup (in 1967) and joked he threw away his ticket stub thinking many more titles were a certainty,” said long-time Sun hockey scribe Lance Hornby. “Mike was immensely helpful with my books on the Leafs and (Maple Leaf) Gardens and for various Sun projects.”
Filey has earned himself a well-deserved spot in the history of the city he loved so much.