Ron Hayter, Edmonton's longest serving city councillor, dead at 81

Ron Hayter, a former city councillor who served 33 years at city hall, died Saturday at the age of 81, his family says.

Hayter remembered for commitment to equality, Indigenous rights, City of Edmonton

Former Edmonton city councilor Ron Hayter during his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, Ont. on June 24, 2006. (The Canadian Press/Geoff Robins)

Ron Hayter, a former city councillor who served 33 years at city hall, died Saturday, his family said.

​​Hayter was elected to city council in 1971 to represent what was then Ward 3. He took a break from municipal politics from 1995 to 2001 to serve on the National Parole Board, before being re-elected to city council to represent Ward 2 in 2001.

Hayter retired from council in 2010.

"This is my city. I'm going to stay here until I kick the bucket," Hayter told CBC News at the time. "And you couldn't live in a better city than Edmonton."

Hayter was born in Saskatchewan and was raised in a logging camp, said his oldest daughter, Sparkle Hayter. He came to Edmonton in 1959.

He was a tough and demanding father, but also very loving and quick to laugh, she said. It was important to him that his children be happy and that they feel as though they don't have any barriers to success in life. 

He strongly believed in equality and that women can have successful careers and do anything men can do, Sparkle said. He was passionate about Indigenous rights his entire life, she added.

"We grew up knowing that this was not our original country, this was not our original land," Sparkle said. "That people have been put out of their land so that we could be here. He worked really tirelessly on behalf of Aboriginal people."

Hayter was a man who never forgot anyone's name, who never seemed to tire despite working from early in the morning to late at night, and who had a soft spot for animals, she said. He rescued wounded birds and once kept one in a box at city hall. 

He once worked as a reporter at the Edmonton Journal, but lost his job for trying to start a union, Sparkle said. 

'A mountain of a man'

Aside from municipal politics, Hayter was actively involved in the Canadian and international baseball communities for almost 50 years. He played baseball in Saskatchewan and B.C., then became president of the Alberta Amateur Baseball Association, and founded the Edmonton International Baseball Foundation.

Former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson hired Hayter as an advisor to help create Sport Canada. He received the Vanier Award and the Queen's Jubilee Medal for community service.

Nobody has worked harder for the city of Edmonton than Ron Hayter.- Sparkle Hayter, daughter

Hayter was also a member of the Edmonton Boxing and Wrestling Commission, president of the Canadian Professional Boxing Federation, and a founding director of the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.

Hayter suffered from dementia in his later years, and developed pneumonia days ago, Sparkle said. He died in his sleep. He was 81.

He is predeceased by his wife, Grace Hayter. He leaves behind his girlfriend, Sheila Cooper, four children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"Nobody has worked harder for the city of Edmonton than Ron Hayter," Sparkle said.

"He was such a mountain of a man it's just hard to even imagine that he's not here anymore."