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Memorable Manitobans: John Walker Spears (1883-1940)


Born in Scotland, he came to Canada in 1906 in the service of the Bank of British North America, settling at Saint John, New Brunswick. He was promoted to manager of the West Toronto branch, serving there from 1914 to 1922. When the bank merged with the Bank of Montreal in 1918, he became superintendent of Ontario branches and later superintendent at Montreal, then Regina, Saskatchewan. In 1928 he was appointed Assistant General Manager at Winnipeg, responsible for Western Canadian branches. He was a member of the Scottish Institute of Bankers, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Royal Trust Company, and a trustee of the pension fund of the Bank of Montreal. While in Regina he was a governor of Regina College.

In 1912 he married Ethel Leah Smith. They were active members of Knox United Church in Winnipeg. Spears was a member of the Manitoba Club, St. Charles Country Club, Lakewood Country Club, Winnipeg Winter Club, and the Assiniboine Club (Regina). He served on the advisory board of the Salvation Army in Winnipeg.

He retired from the banking business in 1935 and moved to Toronto, Ontario where he remained active as president of the Dairy Corporation of Canada and a director of the Huron and Erie Mortgage Corporation and the Canada Trust Company.

He died at his Toronto home on 22 September 1940.


“J. W. Spears in city following western trip,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 November 1939.

“Retired banker, J. W. Spears, dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 23 September 1940, page 2.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 23 September 1940.

“Death climaxes careers of many notable people in course of 1940”, Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1941, page 1.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 31 August 2014

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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