Winnipeg Free Press
Swan Lake trail blazer helped community
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Swan Lake trail blazer helped community

Larry Soldier was born in Swan Lake and, like many other Manitobans in the last 15 months, could have had several more years to live, memories to make, and family times to have.

Sadly, Soldier, like more than 1,000 other Manitobans, contracted and died of COVID-19. He passed away on May 24 at 65.

But while he didn't get those extra years, Soldier still packed a lot into his life.

He was fiercely proud of two things: being able to say Swan Lake First Nation was his home — and his family.

Soldier was the first person from his community to graduate from high school and he was also the first to be accepted into university. In fact, he kept the newspaper clipping describing his accomplishments.

But Soldier not only returned to help his community, serving as its chief at one point, he continued to assist it and the people from there throughout his life.

When Soldier was 22, he was offered a job in Thompson. He was already married, with two kids, but he went there by himself to see what it would be like. He didn't have the money for a hotel so he slept in his car his first night there: when his boss found out, he put him up in a hotel. He liked the job, so it wasn't long before his family joined him.

By the time Soldier left Thompson in 1994, he had already been a city councillor, manager of the Norman Northstars, and executive director of the Friendship Centre.

But what his family also made special mention of, in his recent obituary, was his generosity. He held season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets, but he didn't always go because he would give them to his friends and staff, his kids and grandchildren, but also to Swan Lake First Nation and other organizations so, as he put it, people who wouldn't normally be able to could experience "damn good hockey."

Soldier would also just hand out money at the Swan Lake First Nation's off-reserve Christmas dinner for the door prizes.

As the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said in a statement, Soldier "was a wonderful example of what it meant to live a full life. Hardworking and generous will surely be descriptors used when people fondly remember him. It is heartbreaking as he was taken too soon."

Soldier is survived by his wife, Betty Ann, three children, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason, Reporter

Kevin Rollason

How They Lived

Mary Mori was 17 and helping work on her parents' farm in British Columbia in 1942 when the Canadian government made the decision to move all people of Japanese descent away from their lives to internment camps or farms far away from their homes. Mori and her family ended up in Letellier working on a sugar beet farm. After the war, Mori and her sister decided to stay, working first as a family's housekeeper and then in a sewing factory. She got married, raised four children and was known for her generosity. Read more about Mary.



It didn't matter where life took Barbara Gustafson, she volunteered in every community she lived in. She was raised in Port Arthur, part of what's now Thunder Bay, and volunteered in her church. After marrying Tom, she lived in Gillam, Winnipeg, Montreal and Thunder Bay, volunteering as a leader with both the Cubs and Brownies/Girl Guides as well as serving with the Royal Purple — even taking the seat as Honoured Royal Lady three times. Read more about Barbara.



Marcelle Forest was passionate about her francophone heritage and French-Canadian culture. She was with many organizations, usually French related, and they included being vice-president of Cercle Moliere, on the board of St. Boniface General Hospital, Maison Gabrielle-Roy, and Youville Clinic, and involved with Francofonds. She also was the very first woman to hold the position of president of the Centre culturel franco-manitobain as well as sitting on various committees at the centre from 1983 to 1988. For her volunteerism she received the Premier's volunteer award — twice! Read more about Marcelle.



Josephine Kristjanson was a lifelong volunteer who helped people. She grew up in Geysir in the Interlake and not only helped there, but later Vidir and Gimli. Later in life she not only got her BA, majoring in Icelandic Studies, but also, at age 55, received her health care aide certificate so she could help seniors for a decade until she retired. Read more about Josephine.



A Life's Story

Our most recent A Life's Story feature in our Passages section featured the fleet footed life of Dave Drybrough.

Drybrough, who died in March at 84, ran in track competitions here, across the country, and in the United States. He was even national cross-country champion in 1956, and represented Canada on the track at the Pan Am Games in 1959.

"He was the dominant runner in Manitoba from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s," says Rick Brownlee, executive director of the Hall of Fame.

But likely the pinnacle of Drybrough's running career was at the Winnipeg Arena in 1960 when he broke the Canadian record for the mile with a time of 4:10:4.

For all his athletic accomplishments, Drybrough was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. And that's not all: after hanging up his running shoes Drybrough also excelled in business, working as a chartered accountant and serving as an executive at Gendis Inc., and chairman of Canwest Global Communications. Read our feature story on Dave.

Supplied photos

Dave Drybrough was Manitoba’s dominant runner from the mid-1950s until the early 1960s. Drybrough died in March at the age of 84.


Until next time, I hope you continue to write your own life's story.