William Joseph (Bill) Strath was born in Souris, Manitoba on July 23, 1928. He received his primary education in a one-room school at South Beresford and his high school education at Souris Collegiate. He attended the University of Manitoba, graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture with a BSA in 1954. There, he met Jean Thomson, also a graduate of the university with a degree in Home Economics. Married in 1952, they returned to the family farm near Souris where they raised four children, Margaret, Barbara, James and Jennifer, and farmed full time until 1980.
Service to country and community but mostly to the farmers of Manitoba has been the foundation of Bill’s life. Prior to entering university, Bill had an active career in the military, first with the Air Cadets and then with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons where he reached the rank of Captain.
In the winter of 1954/55 Bill taught an Agriculture Diploma course in Brandon. In the early 1960s he was President of the Souris Valley Agri-Business Association. At this time he became involved in the co-operative movement serving on the Co-operative Hail Insurance Board for 10 years and on the local Manitoba Pool Elevators Board (MPE) for approximately 20 years, being elected a Director of MPE in 1974. During 1980/81, he co-chaired Souris’ 100th Anniversary Celebrations. In 1980, Bill became 1st Vice-President of MPE, and in 1985 was elected President. Throughout his tenure with MPE, he represented Manitoba farmers on many boards, including the Manitoba Farm Bureau, the Livestock Committee, Western Co-op Fertilizers, Pool Insurance, and the Great Lakes Waterway Association. He was a member of trade delegations to Brazil and Russia to promote Canadian agriculture. Bill was President of XCAN Grain, a joint marketing company of the three Prairie Pools, from 1987 to 1990. This company became the largest exporter of Canadian grains outside the Canadian Wheat Board. At the same time, Bill was President and Chairman of the Board of Prairie Pools Inc., a policy group that lobbied the Federal Government on behalf of prairie farmers. Bill was a delegate to the International Federation of Agricultural Producers and Chairman of the Grains Group, whose mandate was to improve trade relationships amongst member nations.
In 1990, Bill retired from Manitoba Pool Elevators and received the Distinguished Co-operator Award for his service to the co-op movement. Bill and Jean moved back to Souris where he became active in Community TV, Elks, Legion, Communities in Bloom, Town Council, Cemetery Board and the Curling Club.
Throughout his career, William Joseph Strath worked at local, provincial, national and international levels. However, he never lost sight of what he was working for – Western Canadian farmers and their rural way of life.