Memorable Manitobans: Harvey Dennis Sparling (1896-1976)

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Harvey Dennis Sparling
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Lawyer, community activist, horticulturist.

Born at Portage la Prairie on 11 November 1896, eldest son of Edwin James Sparling (1863-1935) and Maude Louise Coates (1869-1947), brother of Clarence Coates Sparling, he received his early education in Portage la Praire schools and articled in law with Fawcett Gowler Taylor in 1913.

During the First World War, he served from 1916 to 1919 as a member of the Manitoba Mounted Rifles, seeing active duty in Belgium and France. After the Armistice of 1918 he was drafted from his unit to become a member of the Canadian concert party called the “Dumbells”, and he played in theatres in many parts of Belgium, France and England including Brussels, Paris and London. When he returned to Canada in 1920, he was called to the Manitoba Bar and practiced law in civil and criminal courts until 1957 when he was appointed as a Provincial Magistrate and Juvenile Court Judge, serving until retirement in 1962. While on the bench he had the distinction of never having had any of his judgments overturned, reversed or altered by appeal. In 1959, he was made a Queens Counsel. He was instrumental in the formation of the Central Manitoba Bar Association, served as its first President.

During the Second World War, he served with the Administrative Staff and Training Complement of Military District Ten for two years, and then as Personnel Manager of No. Seven Air Observer School under the Commonwealth Air Training Plan at Southport.

Throughout his early life at Portage la Prairie, he was a noted entertainer, being in large part responsible for organizing the first Portage Little Theatre under the name of “The Portage Permanent Players.” The profits from performances were always donated to the Christmas Cheer Fund. After the introduction of radio, he participated in several radio programs from Winnipeg to Brandon. He was instrumental in the formation of the Portage Island Park Tennis Club, Portage Curling Club, Portage Golf Club, Portage and District Duplicate Bridge Club, and also contributed executive service to hockey, baseball, and bowling. He assisted in the formation of, and was a Charter Member and Officer of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (Lodge No. 32) and he served as Exalted Ruler, as well as District Deputy, and Grand Exalted Ruler. He was also a member of AF & AM (Assiniboine Lodge No. 7), the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 65, the Portage Flying Club, and was Associate Director of the Portage Horticultural Society.

A keen student of nature, he became immersed in horticulture during his retirement years, experimenting with grafting and budding, and contributing articles to the Canadian Rose Society, the Praire Garden, and to other horticulture publications. Although he grew varieties of pears, apples, plums, apricots and berries, his real passion was roses; his garden held 85 to 90 varieties in a typical year. He won 22 Provincial Championship Trophies, over 135 first-place prizes, and the Provincial Championships for Fruit for ten consecutive years. He received a Manitoba Centennial Medal in 1970.

In recognition of his community service, he received Honorary Life Membership in the Manitoba Curling Association, the Manitoba Golf Association, the Portage Curling Club, the Portage Golf Club, the Army, Navy and Airforce Veterans’ Association, the BPO Elks, and the Central Manitoba Bar Association.

He died of cancer on 14 July 1976 and was buried in the Portage Hillside Cemetery.


“6 barristers, magistrates appointed Queen’s Counsel,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1959, page 12.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 16 July 1976, page 17.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

This page was prepared by Chris Sparling and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 10 January 2023

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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