Murray O’Neil

Dr. Murray O’Neil achieved a very successful career in medicine, first as a family physician in Essex county, and later setting up a specialized clinic in allergy and respiratory medicine in Windsor, Ontario that grew to become a ten-doctor practice.  He had a natural curiosity about many things, including sleep and sleep disorders, and later added a sleep laboratory to his clinic.

But farming was in his bones. He had been raised on a farm and he loved the people who worked the land.  In 1961, he built a small, eight-room mushroom farm near Leamington, Ontario.  Through Murray’s own tenacity and drive to succeed and with the help of his partners, Willie and Joyce Zimmermann and Harry Enns, Highline Produce has grown to be the largest mushroom grower in Canada.  The name Murray chose for his business reflects his passion for flying high (he loved to be at the controls of his own plane!) and the direction he set for his business.  His family, partners and management team continue to run the business successfully by maintaining the entrepreneurial culture that Murray initiated and adhering to his values of excellence, shared success, and celebration of diversity.

Despite a healthy and active lifestyle, Murray was diagnosed with throat cancer, and was treated at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre by Dr. Patrick Gullane. “Murray became a great friend and I looked forward to his bi-annual visits. I envied him for the diversity of his many accomplishments including his successful career as a doctor, his amazing business success and his skills as a pilot.  I’ll always remember him fondly.”

Murray was able to return to an active life and his mushroom business following the treatment for his cancer, and he continued to introduce innovative processes that are now used throughout the mushroom industry.  He became a champion for growing without the use of pesticides. 

Murray passed away shortly after his 80th birthday, and in 2013, the Foundation received a generous bequest of $1 million from Murray’s estate which will be directed to the research into new approaches to surgery for head & neck cancers led by Dr. Gullane and his team.  In honour of Murray and his family, the Gullane Chair in Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, currently held by Dr. Ralph Gilbert, has been renamed the Gullane Family/O’Neil Family Chair in Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery.

Murray’s daughter, Elizabeth, remembers hearing fond stories about her father’s visits to Dr. Gullane.  “My father was immensely grateful for the excellent care he received at The Princess Margaret, and would be deeply honoured and humbled to have his name placed on this Chair, alongside that of his friend whom he held in such high regard.”