January 28, 2016 8:35 am
Updated: January 28, 2016 8:47 pm

Funeral for Ron Southern held at his ‘cathedral’ Spruce Meadows

WATCH ABOVE: ATCO founder and co-creator of Spruce Meadows Ron Southern was remembered for his many accomplishments, which all began with a dream and the pursuit of excellence. David Boushy reports.


CALGARY – More than 2,000 people gathered at a funeral on Thursday for prominent Alberta businessman Ron Southern.

Southern, who co-founded one of the world’s top equestrian venues, died last week at the age of 85.

He established the Spruce Meadows show-jumping facility in Calgary with his wife Margaret in 1975.

The facility, which marked its 40th anniversary in 2015, has become a fixture for the world’s best riders and horses.

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“It’s Mr. Southern’s cathedral. It’s where he spent countless hours welcoming people from around the world, teaching them about his world of the horse,” said Spruce Meadows spokesman Ian Allison.

“It’s where he spent virtually every Saturday and Sunday morning over the last 40 years.”

His casket, covered with red roses, sat at the front of the riding hall at Spruce Meadows on Thursday for his funeral.

Political figures who attended the ceremony included former prime minister Stephen Harper, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr and Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

READ MORE: Calgary Tower lights Olympic flame in honour of Ron Southern

Southern and his father also started the Atco Group in 1947. It was first known as the Alberta Trailer Company and grew from a 15-trailer operation to an international conglomerate with interests ranging from construction trailers to pipelines to natural gas distribution.

It has a presence in more than 100 countries, employs 8,000 people and has $19 billion in assets. Southern served as its president for 48 years.

Southern was also the founder and controlling shareholder of Akita Drilling.

Forbes business magazine pegged Southern’s net worth at $1.5 billion last year.

WATCH: Tony Tighe spoke with former colleagues and friends and about Southern’s legacy

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