A tribute to Harold Chapman


A tribute to Harold Chapman

Posted by Victoria Morris on December, 7 2023
Victoria Morris

By Victoria Morris


It hardly seems possible that legendary co-operator, Harold Chapman, left us at the age of 106. The world has lost a very energetic, generous co-operative educator who has had an impact on countless people in Saskatchewan and around the world. He was instrumental in helping develop many co-operatives and community-benefitting organizations, and dedicated much of his life to educating people about co-ops. 

I had the great fortune to first encounter Harold at a meeting to help start Station 20 West. I had heard of him before, but was thrilled to meet this icon of Saskatchewan’s co-operative movement… and amazed to see him in action. He was able to fundraise a sizable amount of funding for Station 20 West within a week or two. Harold knew how to engage with people and inspire action, and he walked the talk on his beliefs. Once Station 20 West and Good Food Junction Co-op were up and running, I would often run into him and Joan buying groceries at Good Food Junction, even though they lived on the other side of town. Harold was determined to show his support for this co-op working to meet a need in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods. 


Harold pictured with CSS Pension Plan members Heather Hale (left) and Victoria Morris (right).

Harold had an amazing memory, boundless energy, and a good sprinkling of mischief that gave him a twinkle in his eye. He could remember if it was the 1955 or 1956 AGM of some co-operative where something happened… and everything since then. We once led a co-op education session together for the Saskatoon Community Clinic. I think it was just before his 100th birthday, and he ran circles around me. I had been worried the session might tire him out, but he loved every minute of it and was energized by the opportunity to educate these co-operative folks. Harold never shied away from an opportunity to encourage people to support initiatives he believed in and for co-operatives to educate their members.

Until he stopped driving, at around age 100, he would come to my office, when I worked for Saskatchewan Co-operative Association, for coffee visits to chat about co-operatives and the state of the co-op sector. After that, I would visit him at his home and at his birthday parties. At what was probably his 102nd birthday party, I recall that when I arrived, he was out on the dance floor, having the time of his life, with that often-present twinkle in his eye. 

Harold began working with co-operatives in Saskatchewan right after the Second World War, working for the Department of Co-operation and Co-operative Development as an Extension Specialist and Director under Tommy Douglas. He also led co-operative education sessions at Co-op Schools (Co-op Camp/Camp Kindling), educating young people about how co-operatives work and why they are important. In the 1950s, he worked as the Director of the Co-operative Institute and was the founding Principal of the Western Co-operative College when it launched in 1959 (later called the Co-operative College of Canada). In the 1970s, he worked as the Director of Member Relations at Federated Co-operatives Limited. He was also a founder of the Association of Co-operative Educators and the Co-operative Management Association. Harold shared his knowledge freely and he spoke at countless events locally, nationally and internationally. 

Harold was involved in many organizations and initiatives that benefit the community. He and his fellow University of Saskatchewan Agriculture graduates from 1943 even established a student bursary fund, which awarded $2,500 per year to graduate students. 

Harold published his memoir, Sharing My Life: Building a Co-operative Movement, with the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives in 2012. The book details Harold’s role in co-operative development and co-operative education, and shares some of the story of his life. From helping his father shovel grain to transport it before the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevators were built, to helping establish farm co-ops around the province and much, much more, the book chronicles both Harold’s life and the co-operative movement over the last 100 years.  




Harold was honoured with a Co-operative Enterprise Award in 1996 in recognition of his leadership in co-operative education and development. Fortunately for the Saskatchewan co-operative sector, Harold’s contributions continued for several more decades after that. During his nearly eight decades of involvement with co-operatives, he contributed immeasurably to the understanding and practice of co-operatives in Saskatchewan and around the world. 


Harold received many other awards and honours over the years. In recent years, he was Saskatoon’s Citizen of the Year in 2021 and also was named to the Order of Canada a few years ago. In 2014, he received a second Saskatchewan Co-operative Merit Award. In 1986, he was awarded the Distinguished Graduate in Agriculture Award from the University of Saskatchewan. In 2005, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for leadership in co-operative and community development. In 2013, Harold was presented with the C.A. Robson Award for superlative service reflecting the spirit of the Saskatoon Health Services Association (Community Clinic): Compassion, Co-operation and Commitment. Harold’s impact can be felt throughout many types of co-operatives as well as within the broader community. 


Even after 106 years of Harold creating a positive impact in the world, it still feels like not enough time to learn from and be inspired by this wonderful, mischievous, inspiring friend. Rest in peace, dear Harold.


If you’d like to learn more about Harold and hear directly from him, here are a few options:


Victoria Morris is a CSS Pension Plan member. She was formerly the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Association and a Member Representative at Affinity Credit Union. 



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