In Memory of
John Austin

The Saskatchewan Association of Recreation Professionals regret to share the news of the passing of John Austin of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

John was a Founding, Charter member of our organization and his vision for a sustainable organization left SARP with what is known as the John Austin Fund. (A monetary fund established towards providing sustainability for our organization back in the 1970’s) John was passionate about recreation and saw the value of an organization representing recreation professionals to provide networking, mentoring and advocacy for the people who worked in the field. His unwavering dedication and contributions to recreation in this province cannot be overstated.

Looking at the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson…..

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”

John Austin succeeded in so many ways

On behalf of all people in the field of recreation, we convey our gratitude for what John gave of himself and the legacy he left behind.  We also share our sincere sadness on the loss of one of our own, John Austin.


July 1, 1925 – May 21, 2020

It’s with heavy heart’s that we are announcing the passing of our father, John Morris Austin.  John passed away gently in his sleep on May 21, 2020, at Extendicare in Moose Jaw, at the age of 94.  John was born in Foam Lake, SK., and July 1, 1925.  After serving in World War 2, he went on to get his second degree at the U of S.  He then started a career with the Canadian Armed Forces, and after 20 years, he needed a change.  He finished his working career as a Recreation Consultant with the Dept. of Culture and Recreation in SK.  John was well known as a mentor, introduced hunting and fishing to a number of people, along with the teaching of respect for our wildlife, and the environment.  Dad loved, and was very proud, of all of his family.  He also was able to not only enjoy his grandchildren but also his great grandchildren.  John will be missed by us all, and is now with his beloved wife, Maybelle.  He will be ready to greet us all, when our times comes, and will show us the best places to fish, hunt and he will have the best tee times booked.  Until that time we will carry his memories in our hearts.  In honour of his passing, and in lieu of flowers, a donation to the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation 9 Lancaster Road Moose Jaw, SK   S6J 1M8.  Arrangements are entrusted to Moose Jaw Funeral Home, 268 Mulberry Lane.  Andrew Pratt Funeral Director 306-693-4550

Memories of John Austin in Recreation in Saskatchewan

John entered the recreation field as a regional field consultant with the Youth Agency, headquartered out of Moose Jaw.  He brought to the table an understanding of the political system in communities as well as an ability to discuss and explain public finance. This made him a valuable asset to the recreation sector as the Agency was mandated to become more closely connected to the local municipal governments to set up recreation boards and organize Regional Recreation Associations.

He was a lifelong supporter of the recreation movement in Saskatchewan. He was a charter member of the SRS, where he served a term as chair.  He also served a term as President of the SPRA.

John believed that work and play should be seamless, and he was a tireless organizer of socials. He never missed a Recreators’ Annual Fishing Trip. Jiggin’ John, his fishing nickname, made sure the liars dice tournament was run as “unfairly” as possible. He made sure the “Annual Meeting” broke all Robert’s Rules of Order.  He headed up the “home- made lure” contest and initiated an auction of the lures as a fund raiser for RAFT that was a highly competitive annual event that created comradery among recreation practitioners that has lasted throughout the years.

However, I thought it was his insight into fund raising ventures that stood out. His forward thinking with respect to what the potential of the lotteries might be was impressive at the beginning, and his work on guiding the recreation sector through the various stages culminating in the John Austin Investment Fund, lives on. His vision that the recreation sector needed to be in on the ground floor was what I think was his greatest legacy to the field in general and the recreation profession in particular.

Murray Hidlebaugh – S.A.R.P. Honorary Life (Charter) Member
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

I met John in the late 70’s while I was going to Kelsey but really got to know him well when I joined the Culture and Rec Field Services group in ’84. John was a Senior Consultant, based in Moose Jaw and knew the southwest of our province like the back of his hand. John had served in the Armed Forces and brought a special sort of attitude to our work in those days – not a “militaristic” one but more of an attitude like our work was a calling of sorts and it was our duty to do it well. With his steely eyes, a ready laugh and a handshake like a vice grip, John took us youngsters under his wing and taught us the ropes. He was a founding member and champion of the SARP (SRS in those days of course) and gave back to our profession and his community in many ways including two terms on Moose Jaw City Council. SARP owes a huge debt of gratitude to John – the Foundation that bears his name is just part of his legacy. I was proud to call him a friend and colleague – he will be missed.

Keith L. Comstock – S.A.R.P. Honorary Life Member
Regina, Saskatchewan

I was deeply saddened when I learned that John Austin had passed away.

I worked with John for over thirty years in various capacities including his work as a recreation consultant with the Provincial Government, member of the Zone 3 Sport Council, board member of the South Central Recreation and Parks and Association and during his time as a Councillor with the City of Moose Jaw.

John was a visionary and a builder who strongly believed in the value and importance of recreation in building healthy and vibrant communities.

He was instrumental in helping to form the Saskatchewan Recreation Society (now the Saskatchewan Association of Recreation Professionals) and to support the Association, spent countless hours travelling throughout the southwestern part of the Province selling and coordinating the sale of Lottery tickets.  His efforts led to the formation of the John Austin Foundation. This Fund has been used for years by both SRS and SARP to fund projects and programs that support their goals and objectives.

Some of my fondest memories of John are travelling with him between Moose Jaw and Swift Current, stopping at every small town, distributing tickets and visiting with representatives of the rec board and/or councils. He tirelessly supported towns in the development of their recreation boards and was always available to help communities create their own local recreation programs

During these trips we would talk at length about the state of recreation in the province and debate what could be done to move the sector forward. From time to time, to help settle a contentious issue, we would get on John’s CB radio and asked passing truckers to mediate our discussions.

He was a gregarious and likeable person and had the ability to draw people into discussions and debates in a manner that showed how much he valued their participation and their opinions. He always found time to help out fellow recreationists and would make an extra effort to follow up with them to ensure that everything was working out okay.

John and I had many laughs and good times together. I learned a lot from him and will miss him.

Norm Campbell – S.A.R.P. Professional Member
Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

I miss John! He was such a large personality. John was the Culture and Youth guy in the Moose Jaw office when I first moved to Maple Creek. He, along with Gord Johnson and Gord Zakreski, were the first to welcome me to the field and the Zone. Our Zone 3 meetings were often held in the Hodgeville bar – Hodgeville being kind of the centre of the Zone, and the bar had a steak pit. The owner let us have our meetings upstairs after supper. John encouraged me to get involved with the Games and the Zone, which has become such a large part of my life. John was also determined that we all should get to know as many recreation people from across the province as we could, a recommendation that ensures connections, laughs, and lots of mentoring. John was a huge part of the development of recreation in Saskatchewan, and we all owe a lot to his dedication and love for the field. John was one of the best.

Anne Weisgerber – S.A.R.P. Professional Member
Maple Creek, Saskatchewan


I first encountered John Austin as a Recreation Student in 1979; and was immediately impressed by the man’s “presence” and obvious leadership skills with people. John was a mentor to all who worked in the field of recreation and possessed a passion for leisure. Many of us took to calling him “Colonel Austin” (after Colonel Austin-the main figure in the 70’s TV Show “Six Million Dollar Man”)

When we would come into a gathering where he was already in the room; it was standard procedure to salute the Colonel and ask his permission to come aboard! This would be met with loud laughter, smiles and handshakes from John. What a great way to build relationships and start a meeting.

I believe John loved his work so much, that it really was not work to him at all; his belief in recreation for all; and in the importance of recreation professionals administering and delivering these services to the citizens was very evident.

I am thankful that my path in this field crossed with John’s and will remember him as a pioneer and visionary; and as a warm, caring individual.

Shelley Thoen-Chaykoski – S.A.R.P. Honorary Life Member
Foam Lake, Saskatchewan

John and his wife Maybelle started the John Austin Foundation. If it were not for him, we as a professional organization, would not have been able to sustain itself. He was a smart and colourful professional and many of us thought of him as a strong leader, who really cared about S.A.R.P.

Janet Shultz S.A.R.P. – Honorary Life Member
Regina, Saskatchewan

I’m not sure what year it was, but I believe it was the mid-90s when I met John at a John Austin Fund (then called a Foundation) meeting – a fund established to support the longevity of our professional association. I had heard stories about his role in starting the Saskatchewan Recreation Society (now Saskatchewan Association of Recreation Professionals), selling lottery tickets around the province, and the gatherings of recreation professionals in those early years. Meeting John, I had the good fortune of witnessing his vision and passion to our field and profession. I appreciate all of the leadership and effort that he contributed to both the field, and especially the profession. It is always sad to lose our peers and mentors. John leaves a legacy that we won’t forget and will pass on to each generation of professionals and practitioners. Thanks for blazing trail John and may you rest in peace.

Judy MacLeod Campbell
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

Rest in Peace, John.

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