Sylvia Jean Leitner (nee Thorburn)

Sylvia Jean Leitner (nee Thorburn)

With sadness and a heavy heart we announce the passing of Sylvia Jean Leitner (Thorburn), wife of Willy Leitner, and mother of Shirley and Joe. Sylvia passed away peacefully, with family by her side, at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital on Saturday, November 12, 2016 in her 75th year. Sylvia was born in Calgary, Alberta on August 29th, 1941. She is survived by her loving son Joe (partner Candice), grandson Damian (wife Naomi), and brothers, Rick (partner Linda) and Herb (wife Lorna), as well as many cherished cousins, nieces, and nephews. Sylvia was predeceased by her husband Willy, her daughter Shirley, her brother Bill and her parents Bert and Etta Thorburn.

Bert was a radio technician in the war and taught many courses on radio transmitting and communications. Etta was a well respected nurse. Shortly after World War II, Bert, Etta, and family, moved back to Vernon to rejoin the family that had been established in Vernon since 1909.

Growing up as the sister of three brothers, Sylvia set her own path. She was a passionate horseback rider who owned and cared for many horses, and spent much of her spare time riding them through the fields of Pleasant Valley and Armstrong. Her older brother Herb was four years older than the other three, leaving the others to play and get into their own shenanigans. One fond memory the brothers have of Sylvia, is her riding her horse through her parent’s house. Sylvia later became a professional and competitive figure skater, who enjoyed coaching younger skaters in Vernon. Herb grew up to become a successful engineer, Rick became an architect, and Bill went on to run the family business, Wright and Thorburn Radio.

In 1962, Sylvia met Willy Leitner, and shortly after traded her skates in for skis, becoming an excellent skier under Willy’s tutelage. Willy was a professional ski racer and then instructor, who was the love of Sylvia’s life. One year after dating they were married. Living on Silver Star Mountain, they established Silver Star Ski School. With the help of close friends, Willy and Sylvia built and established most of the A-frame cabins on the mountain.

In 1963, Sylvia gave birth to daughter Shirley and three years later to son Joe. The kids were as fond of the ski slopes as their parents and spent the majority of their time racing down the hills. Also in that time, Sylvia was diagnosed with lupus. She lived and often battled with the disease for 53 years. During these years Sylvia founded the BC Lupus Society and Support group for people living with lupus. She helped people understand the disease and how to live with it in an easier way.

In 1969-70, Willy transitioned from Silver Star Mountain down into the city of Vernon and established Willy’s Motor Inn and Sitzmark Restaurant. The restaurant was a popular establishment with the locals. In the later years this was run and managed by their daughter Shirley. Years later, the family transformed the business into Creekside Seniors Residence, which they later sold in 2001. This allowed Sylvia and Willy to enjoy more time together and travel. They often ventured down to California where Willy could hit the greens and Sylvia could relax in the sun.

In lieu of flowers, Sylvia and the family would appreciate donations be made to the BC Lupus Society ( or 210-888 W 8th Ave Vancouver, BC, V5Z 3Y1).

A Celebration of Sylvia’s Life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 24th at Pleasant Valley Funeral Home.

Your condolences will be approved within one business day. You will need a valid Facebook account. Please email us if you have any questions.