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Ernie Hobbs

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Ernest Hobbs | Obituary | Ethical Death Care | Winnipeg


December 28, 1948 - January 3, 2024

Ernie was a charismatic, generous, loving, extremely intelligent person who placed family at the centre of his life. 


Born in Toronto on December 28, 1948 to Frank and Florence Hobbs, Ernie was the fifth of what would eventually be nine children in the Hobbs family. Ernie spent his early childhood in Massey, growing up in a small house with 11 people, helping to raise his younger siblings, and working with his dad, brothers and cousins on relatives’ farms. This instilled a strong work ethic in Ernie from an early age. At the age of four Ernie contracted appendicitis and was rushed to the hospital in Sault Ste Marie, just in time to save his life, his appendix having already burst. This event set the tone for Ernie's life as a survivor and a fighter. His tenacity for life and living was a keystone.  


The Hobbs family moved back to Toronto in 1960 when Ernie was in grade 7, opening Ernie and his siblings up to everything that the big city had to offer. Toronto would play a key role in Ernie’s life. About 5 years later the family moved to Owen Sound, where Ernie attended Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational School. This is where he met his lifelong friend James Elliott. 


After graduation from high school, Ernie followed his eldest brother Gerald to Toronto, attending Victoria College at the University of Toronto. University life provided an excellent platform for Ernie with respect to his social activism during this pivotal time in our collective history. He became actively engaged in politics, anti-war activism, and played a key role in student politics, becoming the President of the Victoria College student association. One of his significant achievements as President was creating co-ed student housing at Victoria College. 


Ernie also enjoyed discussions and debates with his friends around intellectual topics, where they looked to solve the social issues of the world. 


During his summer breaks Ernie applied himself to his social causes, spending both the summers of 1968 and 1969 in the Yukon and Northwest Territories respectively, with Frontier College teaching English to immigrant workers. Ernie took a year off from University to work in the mines and continue his teaching. 


After graduating in 1972, Ernie started working for the Employment and Development Branch, Opportunity for Youth, quickly becoming a Regional Manager in Toronto. From there he rapidly transitioned to working for the Department of Northern and Indian Affairs in the Federal Government. It is during this period that he met Margaret Skok, whom he married and is the mother of their two children, Tanya and Nick. Ernie’s professional advancement in the Federal government brought him to Ottawa in 1977. 


His intellectual prowess, drive and strong sense of moral responsibility eventually led Ernie to break out on his own and fight for what he saw as the “right side.” He formed E.E. Hobbs and Associates in 1984. 


For the nearly 40 years that followed, Ernie dedicated himself to representing, advising, and advocating for First Nations in parts of Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia . His work was pivotal in developing some of the first revenue sharing agreements between FIrst Nations, Developers and Governments in the country. Through his work, Ernie developed close relationships with leaders within the communities. He gained the respect of those he worked across the table from.  


When Ernie first came to Winnipeg to explore opportunities, he worked alongside and was mentored by Joe Keeper from Norway House Cree Nation. Ernie was honoured to work with Joe for many decades, always admiring his intelligence, patience, ferocity and perspectives.  


It was during his early time in Winnipeg, in 1985, that Ernie met the love of his life Deborah Challis, whom he married in 1987.  Together they built a life, bringing together their respective children - Kate and Stephen (Deborah), Tanya and Nick (Ernie). Shortly after their marriage, Frank was born, rounding out their family of five children. Ernie and Deborah enjoyed 38 years together and 36 years of marriage, filled with wonderful memories. 


Ernie and Deborah loved to entertain and socialize. They always welcomed guests into their home and loved celebrating life. Their home was always filled with their friends and the friends of their children, which created a happy and dynamic environment. They prioritized family time and spent summers at the cottage at Rainy Lake on Challis Island, later at Big Rideau Lake, and most recently at Wolf Island. Ernie was committed to ensuring the kids all spent time outside, even during the winter months taking the kids skating on the canal, tobogganing and skiing. 


Ernie was tirelessly committed to supporting his children in all of their endeavors from sports to academics, which continued through adulthood. He was always in attendance at their games and graduations - their biggest champion. 


After the four older kids left for university, Ernie, Deborah and Frank moved to Winnipeg in 2002. Winnipeg became the nucleus of the family from that time forward. Ernie and Deborah created a warm social life in Winnipeg, centered around Deborah’s siblings, their spouses, nieces, nephews, and a circle of close friends.  


As Ernie slowly moved away from work life, which he was never fully able to do, he spent more and more time immersed in the things he found pleasurable. Reading about politics and history, gardening, further developing his wine cellar and stamp collection, traveling with Deborah around the world, walking his dog Angus, and connecting with friends and family. There can be no doubt that one of the greatest joys of Ernie’s life was becoming a grandfather to his three grandsons, Jack, Henry and Lukian.


Up until his last days Ernie enjoyed reading the Globe and Mail, the Guardian Weekly, and listening to his favourite music. His passion for life, his generosity and intellect and social activism have left an impact on the world he inhabited, and everyone who came into contact with him.


A celebration of life will be held at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, January 10th, 2024, at the Universalist Unitarian Church, 603 Wellington Crescent, in Winnipeg.


Cremation & Life Celebrations

530 St. Mary Avenue - Winnipeg

204-421-5501 -

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