For 50 years, Leila Wightman was a prime contributor to Wightman’s success and survival, first as an operator and ultimately as the senior officer and the owner.
Leila Schnurr was married to Benjamin Wightman in 1925, and the two of them lived in the apartment shared with the Wightman company offices in Clifford. Leila acted as its lead operator and office administrator until Benjamin’s untimely death in 1948. Leila was faced with a personal crisis and a major dilemma – to accept a purchase offer for the company or to run the business herself. With the support and efforts of her 18-year old son, Ray, the widowed mother of four chose to become one of Canada’s first, perhaps the first, female telephone company owner. From 1947, through 1975, Leila Wightman owned and operated the Wightman Telephone System.
Leila took over Wightman Telephone at one of the most critical periods in the company’s entire 100-year history. Its survival was in her hands – hands that also had a family of four to feed and nourish. She believed that the path to success was to embrace rapid modernization for the business and overcome adversities one at a time. There would be ample opportunities for both.
In 2006, Leila Wightman was inducted into Canada’s Telecommunications Hall of Fame. Dubbed a heroine of rural telephony, Wightman was selected for induction into the Hall of Fame for her inspirational leadership during the post-World War II period, and to underscore the major role small businesses played in Canadian telecommunications.
Poster from the 2006 Canadian Telecom Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Leila was in good company, inducted with two members of the Rogers family and Donald Hings, the inventor of the walkie-talkie.
At the induction of Leila Wightman into Canada’s Telecommunications Hall of Fame, 2006, Toronto.
(L-R) Hall of Fame founder Lorne Abugov, Paul Wightman, Blair Wightman and Hall of Fame member Lis Angus.
Leila and Ben’s children at her induction to Canada’s Telecommunications Hall of Fame, 2006: (L-R) Ray Wightman, Eila (Wightman) McLaughlin and Len Wightman. Joy (Wightman) Lawrence, was unable to attend from her home in South Carolina.