Remembering Mike Filey

mike-filey-toronto-past.jpegMike Filey was not world-famous. Witness how my father-in-law asked who he was when I mentioned his recent passing at the age of 80. However, he did not set out to be. Instead, he lived an outsized life within the city where he grew up, spent much of his life, and very clearly loved with his whole heart. This is why many Torontonians are today remembering the man and his legacy.

Mike Filey was a writer and a historian, and he loved his hometown of Toronto. Not only did he faithfully log all manner of anecdotes and information about the city's past, but he also played a part in making the city what it is, helping with the Streetcars for Toronto Committee as they convinced the TTC to abandon its streetcar abandonment policy back in 1972. The fact that Toronto is a city of trams is because of him and the people he worked with.

But he is most known for his writing. He was a columnist for the Toronto Sun and the author of numerous books about Toronto's history. He talked up all the things that he loved, particularly the Toronto Transit Commission. As fellow writer Jeremy Hopkin stated in his eulogy, "Mike Filey's articles were one of the beacons that made me feel as though the [Greater Toronto Area] was indeed a special place that has a history worth celebrating and preserving." As a result, his work was a formative experience for many a Torontonian or Toronto transit fan, myself included.

But above all else, he remained humble and approachable. I met him personally on two occasions. I convinced him to share a book launch with me as I debuted The Young City, which was set in 1884 Toronto. He contacted me again a few years later when someone had handed over a collection of slides from old Toronto. We had a lunch at his home, with his lovely wife, and very pleasant conversation. It was kind of an honour to have his respect when he handed over pieces of Toronto's history to be logged in Transit Toronto.

So, Mike Filey never set out to be world-famous, but in Toronto he was famous enough, for the work he did, and the love he put into it. And for that, he will be remembered, by a lot of people.

Rest in peace, Mike. And thanks for everything.

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