Leo Sylvestre, Part II

As we continue to wrap up loose ends and draw 2019 to a close, we wanted to follow up on a post that we made back in April regarding Canadian speed skater Leo Sylvestre, born December 14, 1912. Sylvestre represented his country at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics where, despite being entered in four events, he only competed in one, the 500 metres, and was eliminated in round one. We had a possible lead on his date of death being in October 1952, but further research determined that this was just a coincidence, as the individual who died in 1952 was too young, while another report showed that the Olympian was still alive in 1962.

(December 28, 1962 report from The Gazette)

Such coincidences are rare, but they do happen. While going through our list of 1930-born Olympians, we looked into the case of British fencer Theresa Offredy, born May 4, 1930, who was part of the British women’s foil team at the 1964 Tokyo Games. We located the record of a Theresa Offredy born May 4, 1929, whose death was recorded in the England and Wales Death Index during the first quarter of 1991. Since it is not uncommon for years of birth to be off by a year (or more), and given the rarity of the name, we assumed that this was the Olympian.

It turned out, however, just to be a substantial coincidence. The woman born in 1929 was Barbara Theresa Offredy, while the Olympian born in 1930 is Theresa Mary Offredy. Research by Olympic historian Ian Morrison demonstrated that Theresa Mary was still alive in at least 2010, confirming that she was not the individual who died c. 1991.

With the knowledge that such coincidences can occur, we turn back to Leo Sylvestre, whose name is much more common than Offredy’s. Thanks to a contribution from Marc Durand, we learned that Sylvestre was deceased in 1981 when his widow received a trophy on his behalf. This narrows his date of death to a period between 1962 and 1981. The best match we could find in the Quebec Death Index was for a Leo Sylvestre born December 13, 1911 who died December 11, 1972.

This individual was born one year and one day off the data that we have for the Olympian, so the most likely answer is that this is the Olympian and that either our data or the index’s data is slightly off. Given what we just posted about coincidences, however, we cannot conclude definitively that this was the Olympian, because we were unable to locate an obituary. Most likely, however, Sylvestre’s date of death being December 11, 1972 is the solution to the mystery.

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