An eight-day heat wave that remains the hottest on record may have shortened the life of my great great granddad, who was 96 years old that year.

Paul Charboneau died in Toronto, Ontario on August 1, 1936. His death took place four years to the day after his beloved wife Keziah passed away, despite her being 16 years younger than he.1

The couple met and married in Orangeville, Ontario, where their families lived when they were born. The community was then known as Grigg’s Mill before the town itself was officially incorporated in 1863.2 Her family were immigrants—her dad hailed from Scotland, her mom from Ireland. They lived in a mixed farm, like many common in those days. His mom, Mary Laskey also was an immigrant from England. His dad, another Paul Charboneau, was born in Ontario and may have been the man of the same name who got a land grant from serving in the War of 1812, although I haven’t confirmed that yet. It’s not clear whether they too owned a mixed farm or if they lived in the village while he worked felling timber or taking care of the water mills.

Either way, Paul and Keziah probably knew each other growing up, perhaps at church, since both families worshipped in the Church of England. They married in 1878 and stayed in Orangeville for almost a decade. A census three years after their marriage describes Paul as a cooper, someone who builds barrels for a living.

Orangeville’s heyday diminished by the turn of the 20th Century (although it revived to attract my parents in the 1970s; I grew up in the town).

Sometime prior to 1901, Paul and Kezia moved with nine of their ten children to Weston, Ontario, a then town that now forms part of the greater Toronto area. (My mom’s side of the family lived in Weston for another four generations after Paul and Kezia moved there, including most of her life and the first seven years of mine.)

By then, Paul worked as a labourer. Their first son had married and moved to Toronto with his wife several years earlier.

In the summer of 1936, Grandad Paul was living in a cottage-style home at 151 Humberside Ave. in Weston. Late in July, he went into the Humberside hospital where he died with coronary thrombosis due to arteriolar sclerosis and ulcerative cystitis from an enlarged prostrate.

The poor 96-year-old man must have been very uncomfortable dealing with bladder issues during that record hot summer. Multiple heat waves took place, including the biggest one prior to his death.

Temperatures in Toronto reached 105°F (40.6°C) during three of the eight days that made up the heat wave that began on Sunday, July 5. Heat-related issues directly killed 275 Torontonians that week, in addition to harming people like my great great grandfather who suffered other ailments.

Hot temperatures remained in place well into August, long after my great great granddad died. The heat wave that summer killed 1,693 people in North America, which puts it sixth on the list of the worlds ten deadliest heat waves ever.3


1Toronto Humberside, County of York, 4720, 005767, “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch , : 19 May 2015), Deaths > 1932 > no 3918-5556 > image 1593 of 1748; citing Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto.


3Burt, Christopher C, North America’s Most Intense Heat Wave: July and August 1936,,was%20less%20than%2011%20million.


Tracey Arial

Unapologetically Canadian Tracey Arial promotes creative entrepreneurship as an author, cooperative business leader, gardener, family historian and podcaster.

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