Memorable Manitobans: Floyd Bennett Williston (1931-2015)
Community activist, bookshop manager, folk music impresario, freelance journalist, author, historian.
Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia on 12 January 1931, youngest of nine children of John Henry Williston and Katherine McLeod, he came to Winnipeg in 1954 as organizer for the North American section of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), which held youth festivals every two years. Headquartered in Budapest, where he married Elsie Sawiuk of Winnipeg, he was active in the organization of the Moscow (1957) and Vienna (1959) Festivals. He was a founding member of the Winnipeg Folk Singers (1954-1963).
He took over management of the Co-op Book Shop with the departure of Roland Penner and assumed the role of impresario of the Co-op Folk Concerts featuring such renowned performers as Pete Seeger, Odetta, Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, The Michell Trio, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee. He played an important role in the Canadian Folk Song Revival of the 1960s and 1970s.
As head of the Provincial Job Office for the Edward Schreyer government, he was charged with implementation of the Special Northern Native Employment Program (SNNEP). He was a founding member of the General Council of Community Centres and New FACESS Child and Family Services; and a member of the Manitoba Peace Council, The Manitoba Maritimers Association, a partner in Galleria Travel Agency, and in the last decade a board member of the Seven Oaks Historical Society and the North East Winnipeg Historical Society.
As a freelance journalist, he wrote for maritime newspapers on topics pertaining to the Second World War, Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Boston Marathon runners. In 1990, he published Johnny Miles, Nova Scotia’s Marathon King on a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon. His final book Through Footless Halls of Air (1996) reviewed the final days of six maritime pilots, including his two brothers, Albert and David, who died in the Battle of Britain.
He died at Winnipeg on 28 December 2015.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 2016.
This page was prepared by Len Kaminski.
Page revised: 21 March 2017