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Sun, August 27, 2006
More than a brilliant mathematician

Memorial held for Robert Barrington Leigh

By AJAY BHARDWAJ, Staff Writer

Family members of Robert Barrington Leigh (left to right) Iris (mom), Christopher (brother), Tom and Rosalind (sister) console each other after speaking to media about the death of Robert at a private memorial service held at the Strathcona Community Centre in Edmonton on Sunday afternoon. Robert Barrington Leigh went missing Aug. 13, 2006, and was found in the North Saskatchewan River on August 22, 2006. (JASON FRANSON, Edmonton Sun)

Robert Barrington Leigh wasn’t just a brilliant mathematician with a promising future.

The 20-year-old was a smiling, friendly well-rounded man with a love of theatre and adventure, said friends and family who gathered to the remember the man, who’s life was tragically cut too short.

“Personally, I feel honoured to have been acquainted with such a talented person,” said Telford Yeung, 21, who’d known Barrington Leigh since the sixth grade.

“I have quite a great amount of respect for him.”

He recalled Barrington Leigh as not only a great math, physics and computer sciences student, but also a theatre lover from their days at Old Strathcona High School. They worked together on plays in high school, with Barrington Leigh taking care of stage hand duties, while Yeung acted.

“If you were well acquainted with him, you’d see he’s not just an intellectual in mathematics,” said Yeung, now entering medical school at the University of Alberta. Barrington Leigh was a cross-country skier and avid outdoorsman.

“He was quite adventurous,” said Yeung.

Barrington Leigh, a University of Toronto math student on summer holiday, vanished mysteriously Aug. 13 when he left his parents’ Old Strathcona home to meet friends at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

His family launched an intense search for the young man. Hundreds of volunteers -- friends and total strangers -- showed up to comb the river valley in search of Barrington Leigh.

His siblings set up a website,, complete with a description of their brother.

Desperate to find any word on Barrington Leigh, the family even offered a $5,000 reward for anyone with information that led to his whereabouts.

Finally, nine days after he went missing, Barrington Leigh’s body was found in the North Saskatchewan River, ending an agonizing search.

Police said an autopsy found Barrington Leigh’s death was non-criminal but haven’t said how he died.

“You’re never really prepared for something like that but you expect the worst,” said 18-year-old Bryndan Costuros Spence.

People who gathered at Strathcona Community Centre, 10139 87 Ave., to celebrate Barrington Leigh’s life came bearing flowers. Young men and women -- many barely out of their teens -- came dressed in black shirts and black pants.

“I remember he was always good natured,” said Shuo Chen, 20. “He was really smart but never looked down on people.

“He was smiling, always.”

Costuros Spence sat on a berm outside the red-brick building before going inside.

“It’s upsetting,” said the music student. “He was so young and so brilliant ... He was always a sweet boy. His whole family are just nice people.”

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