Memorable Manitobans: Harry Lorne “King” Softley (1905-1969)
Educator, administrator, municipal official.
Born at Toronto, Ontario on 16 March 1905, eldest son of Henry “Harry” Softley (1871-1918) and Louisa Lorne Park (1878-1964), he earned the “King” moniker from his father’s fellow University of Toronto medical students. He moved to Saskatchewan in his youth where he was educated at the Yorkton Collegiate Institute (1922-1923) and Luther College at Regina (1933-1934). He worked for 17 years in rural Saskatchewan schools, where he was known for incorporating sport and activities into the daily routine. He taught at Swift Current Collegiate (1931-1934), Abbey High School (Principal, 1937-1938), Neville School (Principal, 1938-1939), and Moosomin School (1939-1941), resigning from the latter to enlist with the Royal Canadian Army during the Second World War. He served in the Royal Canadian Artillery.
Following his military discharge, he moved to Winnipeg around 1944 and eventually received BEd and BA degrees from the University of Manitoba. He was a Department of Veterans Affairs teacher at the Ford plant, a teacher at Assiniboine School (1944-1946), Recreational Vocational Training Director (1947), Principal of Queen Elizabeth School (1947-1948), Superintendent of Schools for the Norwood School District No. 2113 (1950-1969, succeeded by J. W. Downey), and an Alderman for the City of St. Boniface (1960-1968).
He was a founder of the St. Boniface Public Library system, Chairman of the Library Board for nine years, Chairman of the Norwood Community Club for seven years, and Chairman of the Provincial Command Sports Committee (1948). He was a founding member and President of the Greater Winnipeg Council of the Manitoba Association for Retarded Children (1953), an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion, United Empire Loyalists of Canada (Winnipeg, now Manitoba Branch), and a recipient of the Canada Centennial Medal (1967).
He married fellow school teacher Darlene Lucille Graber (1907-1978) and had two children: Donald Lorne Softley (1935-2012) and Maura Beryl Softley (wife of Alistaire M. Pringle Sr.). He resided at 215 Berry Street in St. James before moving to Norwood in 1950 and residing at 30 Larchwood Place. His recreations included swimming, skating, tennis, riding, baseball, hockey, track and field, golf, and travel.
“Early opening for suburbs,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 August 1947, page 3.
“Minnedosa plans to fete bowlers,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 March 1948, page 20.
“3 hearts don’t melt,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 March 1965, page 19.
“Softley’s chair to stay behind,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 July 1968, page 3.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 5 September 1969, page 27.
“Thoroughfare named “Softley Road” in honor of former city alderman,” St. Boniface Courier, 10 September 1969.
“Open House Tuesday at Softley School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 June 1971, page 23.
Obituary [Mrs. H. L. Softley], Winnipeg Free Press, 16 December 1978, page 41.
“The election’s over; let the fight begin to save city schools,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 November 1998, page A7.
Obituary [Donald Lorne Softley], Winnipeg Free Press, 26 August 2012, page C10.
Cookson family tree, Ancestry.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
We thank Beryl Pringle for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 10 September 2015
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