Harry Sudom, dedicated community coach and former mayor of Fort Smith, passed away on January 17 at the age of 95. Photo: Submitted
Harry Sudom, known for his dedication to coaching and his lasting impact on Fort Smith, has passed away at the age of 95.
Sudom coached a wide variety of sports in the community over the years including hockey, softball, track and field, curling, and volleyball.
Don MacDonald, who met Sudom in the mid-70’s, said he proved to be one of the most popular people in town at the time “because of the amount of hours he devoted to coaching.”
Sudom was loved as a coach “because of his devotion to the young people, his leadership, his skills in coaching, and the amount that he actually gave of himself to young people,” according to MacDonald.
“He had many excellent, really good teams, but his most notable was Andy’s Angels girls’ fastball team.”
One of the players on that team was Brenda Dragon.
“Harry changed my life,” she said, “in the way he taught me to set goals and just [by] being a very solid, constant guide.”
Dragon said Sudom was full of contradictions — loud but quiet, rough yet soft — but above all else, he was an example of integrity to those he coached.
“He made a difference to a lot of young people in our community,” she said. “Sports can be such a formative activity, and he made it that much more for all of us.”
Sudom’s nephew, Barry Sudom, said his uncle’s guidance went beyond the sports field or ice rink.
“He wanted to make better people, not just better players,” he said.
Jean Soucy remembers meeting Sudom when he moved to Fort Smith at the age of 14 and started playing hockey.
“He sort of took me under his wing,” Soucy said. “He was an influential person in my life to get me involved in hockey here, and moving forward.
“I always reflected with whatever he taught me as a coach, throughout my life. He impacted me in that way because as he was coaching me as a hockey player, he was also developing me as a young person into a mature adult in the real world.”
Westly Steed recalled Sudom giving him a softball glove one summer during baseball season when he was a young teenager.
“I still have that glove today,” Steed said. “Whenever I play ball, that’s the glove I use.”
‘All in with everything he did’
Born on October 22, 1926 on a farm in Saskatchewan, Sudom eventually moved north to Uranium City and then to Yellowknife. His journey to find a community he would spend the rest of his life in ended in the mid-70’s when he landed in Fort Smith.
It was during that period that Don MacDonald met Sudom while working as the chairman of the town’s recreation advisory board. Sudom was among the applicants vying for the position of recreation director.
“As a board, we asked a couple of prominent members of Fort Smith if they had any suggestions as to who we should recommend for the hiring decision,” MacDonald recalled.
“Both of them said, ‘did Harry Sudom apply?’ And we said yes. ‘Then don’t look at anybody else, just hire him.’”
Sudom was later elected as mayor of Fort Smith and held the position from 1984 to 1986.
A hard worker and always ready for a challenge, Sudom found new passions after he retired.
“He was all in with everything he did. He wanted to work as hard as he possibly could,” his nephew Barry said.
Sudom built his own log cabin, set up an irrigation system for farming, and developed his own market garden. His fresh produce became a fixture in the community.
“He didn’t have to take it to town,” MacDonald recalled. “I mean people drove to his yard. Car after car until pretty well his produce was all sold.”
Outside of working in the garden, Sudom was known as a formidable golf player — even into his eighties. Soucy remembers one game in particular.
“That was probably the worst game I’ve ever played in my life,” Soucy said, “only because I was so nervous to play my coach who demanded me to be my best.”
Steed shared similar memories.
“I could never beat him,” he said. “I’m 40 years younger than him, and I still couldn’t beat him in a round of golf.”
In 2016, Soucy and others put together a big party for Sudom’s 90th birthday. He said tickets sold out within a week with attendees coming from across the NWT and Alberta.
“I’ve never seen that guy smile so much in my life,” Soucy said.
Steed said he emceed the event and brought the glove Sudom had given him all those years ago and asked him to sign it.
“I’ll miss him,” Soucy said. “I wish I had more time with him.”
Sudom passed away on January 17. He was predeceased by his parents Steve and Julia Sudom and six siblings. He is survived by his sister Gladys Brown and sister-in-law Edith Sudom, along with several nieces and nephews.
There will be a celebration of life service for Sudom in Fort Smith later this year with a date and more information to be announced.