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Arlyne LaBella

LABELLA, Arlyne - Web Obit Photo.JPG



January 6, 1930 - September 30, 2022

This obituary follows from the one in the Free Press, October 8th/22, and will highlight things about Arlyne many friends likely did not know. Her journey from Connecticut to Georgia, and then to Winnipeg in 1958, is described in the obituary of her beloved husband Frank, who predeceased her just recently on July 16th of this year. His story and tributes can be found on this same website by clicking here.

Several details are from an email Frank wrote to his kids last December, wherein he proudly reflected on Arlyne’s many talents she had been so modest and quiet about.

Arlyne was born in Meriden Connecticut in 1930. She was an only child until her early teens when her parents adopted her beloved sister Bert. Frank speculates that while both her parents loved her dearly, father Charles clearly had desired a son! But from very modest means Charles and Katherine helped her with any and all passions that arose as she grew.

They discovered her knack for keyboards when she was around 4, and at age 6 she gave a solo performance on accordion at a large concert hall in Hartford where apparently the audience broke out in laughter when this tiny figure came out on the stage. Later her piano skills flourished and she played for a local polka band, playing at parties and for Frank to sing over the coming decades, until arthritis in her hands took its toll.

Father Charles taught her how to handle a rifle when she was old enough, and he encouraged her to learn to be a pilot. As she did not enjoy enclosed spaces, she learned in open cockpits specifically -easily available in the late 1940’s. He also taught her basic automobile repair. Arlyne never spoke much about these unusual skills she developed in her youth, but once with friends at a spaghetti dinner when she was nearly 80 (she made the best meatballs) when someone was wondering what ‘roll, pitch and yaw’ actually meant in flying, Arlyne looked up and quietly explained in great detail how a plane worked and why these terms mattered. The whole table went quiet. Never heard her mention airplane function in our lives.

All her life, however, Arlyne was drawn to animals and the few pictures we have from the 1930’s show her holding cats and dogs and rabbits and later horses. Music and animals were obvious passions, and along the way she became an accomplished artist (painter) and photographer as well. In her early 20’s she worked for the Hartford Current (a major newspaper) and taught them how to develop film in a dark room – something her father had taught her as well.

But the lifelong love of horses was first evident when she began to ride at a local riding club in Connecticut and bought her first horse Stardust whom she owned when Frank met her. Later in the 1960’s she got her kids into riding in Winnipeg at the Charleswood Riding Club which had superb instruction from masters in dressage and jumping brought over from Europe who were paid salaries by the owners of the stable and were accessible to all who wanted lessons. Arlyne astutely knew this was a major opportunity for the family to learn from such qualified teachers and away we went on that path.

Arlyne also started the first Pony Club in the Winnipeg area – a British system where horsemanship (everything from anatomy and physiology, basic medical care, feed and other aspects of care, humane treatment and use of horses etc) is taught by experts (sometimes flown in from elsewhere in Canada) and then rallies are held, and long exams are written each year to climb up the ladder of Pony Club Certification. It was a major achievement and she bought red sweatshirts saying Red River Pony Club herself for all the first kids and these beloved ‘classes’ were taught in Teske’s Stable viewing room on McCreary road.  

When Arlyne and Frank moved to their land in Birds Hill in 1971, the passions that were nurtured in both of them were the beauty of nature left as unspoiled as possible, the horses, dogs and ‘barn cats’ and the opportunity for both silence and solitude, as well as social activities on the farm like Springfield Hunt Club (non-live fox) Sunday rides, musical rides in the arena, lessons for kids, rides for Frank’s lab staff and their children. Arlyne read a lot out at the farm and was a lover of poetry and ‘anything Irish’. Frank is right when he says she had an encyclopedic knowledge of horses and their care, dog breeds, ‘saddles and tack’ and countless other things. Needless to say she loved All Creatures Great and Small and read all the books and watched all the shows.

Arlyne taught her children a lot about how to love and care for animals without ever directly ‘teaching.’ It was truly by example and part of that example was to find the most knowledgeable people and the best written material, and learn from them. It is astounding that pre-internet she was able to learn the amount she did. But one example is when she discovered some saddles we had stored in the basement of our house over the winter had developed a layer of mildew on them. She wanted to know if she had harmed the leather or what storage method is better. So she wrote a letter to the maker of our jumping saddles: Pariani, who lived in Italy and made all his saddles by hand himself in those days. He advised her (also by a transatlantic letter) not to worry about the mildew: it was a sign the leather had been well cared for (properly oiled). Frank shared her love of animals and passion for horses, but he would be the first to admit he relied on her completely for advice on all matters pertaining to their care and our use of them.

Arlyne had an outstanding ‘eye’ for spotting ‘performance horses’ that might be missed by someone focused on expensive purebreds in fashion (though admittedly back in the 60’s through to early 90’s horse-folk were less breed specific in such as jumping, a family passion).

But something that says a lot about Arlyne, are two equine purchases she made not thinking about them for sport competition purposes. One was her dear Whitey – a clearly worn-out, swayback small gray mare she purchased from a particular ‘PMU’ farm where the care was barely there and the owner was cruel. She saw this particular mare had signs of suffering and just wanted her to have a better life and insisted the owner sell her to him. The other was Duffy, the tiny buckskin pony she bought for her granddaughter. Duffy was, head hanging low and covered in mange, walking around in a small circle on concrete with another little pony at a midway. She was struck by how depressed Duffy was and had to convince the midway ride owner of Duffy to sell him to her.

Norm Elder, our vet at the time, while assessing Duffy after some initial treatment for mange and poor hoof care, said ‘Well Arlyne, Duffy must think he has died and gone to heaven thanks to you.’

The same could be said of every animal large or small lucky enough to have Arlyne ‘call the shots’ on their behalf. All Creatures Great and Small.

Arlyne's family kindly requests that all of her friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour her memory by watching the photo-biography above. Please, also consider sharing your own photos, memories, and stories by making use of the comment section on this page.


Cremation & Life Celebrations

530 St, Mary Avenue - Winnipeg

204-421-5501 -

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