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Bill Norrie has died at age 83. (University of Manitoba)

Bill Norrie, who served as Winnipeg's mayor from 1979 until 1992, has died.

He was 83.

His wife, Helen, said he died of respiratory failure at about 12:30 a.m. Friday. He had been ill for a while, she said.

Former city Coun. Jae Eadie said Norrie was a quiet man who could get big jobs done at City Hall. The Forks marketplace might not exist if not for Norrie, he said.

"When he was first mayor, that area was just ugly railway yards. By the time he left it was looking pretty much the way we see it today," Eadie said.

Current Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz called Norrie's death a sad day for the city.

A book of condolences has been set up at City Hall for members of the public to sign.

There will be a memorial service at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church on July 11 at 1 p.m. The service will be open to the public.

Rhodes Scholar

Norrie, who was a Rhodes Scholar, served as a Winnipeg school board trustee and city councillor prior to becoming mayor.

He was also chancellor of the University of Manitoba for nine years before stepping down in December 2009, and is honoured in the Citizens Hall of Fame, located in Assiniboine Park.

A member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba, Norrie also served on a number of boards, including the Winnipeg Foundation and the Winnipeg Arts Advisory Council, and kept his toes in politics late into his life.

During the last civic election, Norrie publicly endorsed Judy Wasylycia-Leis as candidate for the next mayor of Winnipeg.

Norrie was predeceased in August 1992 by his son, Duncan Norrie, who was killed in a plane crash over Nepal at age 34.

Then in May 2001, his other son, Mark, died in Bali, where he had been living for about five years. He was 36.