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George Springate, a star in football, politics and law, dead at 81

WATCH: George Springate, a well-known teacher, politician, football player and police officer passed away Wednesday at the age of 81. As Global's Phil Carpenter explains, Springate's legacy and the mark he left on the West Island will live on.

George Springate, a renowned football player, teacher, police officer, judge, journalist and former politician at Quebec’s National Assembly, has died at the age of 81.

While the man of many careers and abilities was highly respected in various circles, Springate is remembered as a selfless man of integrity who helped others in Montreal’s West Island.

“When you saw George, he was the focal point of any environment and he made it about the people he was serving,” said Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beis. “It was never about him.”

Springate’s illustrious life began in Montreal on May 12, 1938. After studying at Montreal High School, he went on to study psychology at Sir George Williams University before earning a law degree from McGill University in 1968.

During the course of his life, Springate wore many hats. He served as a police officer in Montreal from 1958 to 1969 before taking on a law career at the Franklin and Franklin law firm.

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After playing for the McGill Redmen, the athlete moved on to the Montreal Alouettes for three seasons as a kicker. He was part of the winning lineup that snagged a Grey Cup in 1970.

Aside from his life on the field, Springate also had a passion for provincial politics. He served as a Quebec Liberal MNA for the St. Anne riding after being elected in 1970 and again in 1973. He then represented the riding of Westmount in 1976.

“I think that his ability to reach out to anyone and everyone and have them connect with him in a way was almost exceptional,” said Beis.

In 1981, he chose to step away from politics. Springate went on to work as a journalist in Montreal, where he wrote columns for the Westmount Examiner and worked at CBC Montreal as a sports commentator.

Springate became a federal citizenship judge in 1999 and a senior judge in 2006. He also taught law at McGill and taught at John Abbott College, where he helped found the police technology program.

RCMP Musical Ride, organized by George Springate, gallops its way to Montreal
RCMP Musical Ride, organized by George Springate, gallops its way to Montreal

Paul Chablo, the chair of the police technology department at the college, first met Springate in 1978 when he took one of his classes. Springate was tough, fair and engaging in the classroom — expecting his students to fully memorize a book he assigned.

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“He was a dynamic teacher, a fun teacher,” said Chablo. “He was passionate, he was vibrant, he would make the class laugh.”

For a man who had a lot of time in the spotlight, those who knew him describe Springate as someone who was active in the community. He tirelessly championed rights for anglophones, supported immigration and helped raise money for children in need.

“The man will be truly missed,” said Chablo. “He was a kind, generous and great man.”

— With files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter