Henry Labatte

Obituary of Henry J.D. Labatte


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Henry J.D. Labatte, on May 12, 2022, at the Sunnybrook Palliative Care unit in Toronto, at the age of 94.  Henry died peacefully with his family at his side.


For 51 years, Henry was the devoted husband and best friend of Marie (pre-decreased), and loving father and grandfather to the families of Brian (Eleanor), Neil (Justina) and Mary (Roy). In his later years, he was the partner of Jean Cuddy (pre-deceased).


Henry was born in Toronto in 1927. He received a B.Sc from George Williams College (Chicago, IL), a Master degree in Education from the University of Chicago.  He was also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advancement Management program.


Henry grew up in Toronto and spent his teenage years at the Broadview YMCA where he was first inspired to become a YMCA professional. He began his YMCA career in Chicago in the Boys’ Physical Education Department while studying at George Williams College. After completing his degree in 1953, and a work placement at a railway YMCA in Field B.C., Henry was invited to join the staff of the Toronto’s Central YMCA as Assistant Physical Director. Apart from six years on the staff of the National Council of YMCAs responsible for Extension and Community Services and Personnel, Henry’s efforts have been focused on achieving the mission of the Toronto YMCA.


Henry became Senior Executive of the Toronto YMCA in 1970 when the YMCA was 116 years old and virtually bankrupt. Henry set about rebuilding and revitalizing the organization, attracting volunteers and staff that could help him bring about the needed changes.  Henry led the Toronto YMCA to become the largest Association in Canada, and among the flagship YMCAs of the world.  Under his leadership, the Association planned, financed and built five new program centres across Greater Toronto.


A strong believer in diversity and equality, Henry championed the development and advancement of women’s leadership in both the Y and the education field with the Seneca College Marie Labatte Scholarship.  In 1993, the Henry Labatte Scholarship was created that offers opportunities for full-time staff to learn from the YMCA's international partners, while sharing their skills to support strategic projects.


Henry’s self-help orientation led him to be a founder and eventually Chair, of the World Urban Network to support and strengthen the community service operations of large metropolitan YMCAs.  After his retirement from the YMCA, Henry served as the first permanent secretary to the group. He also made important contributions as Chair of the North American Urban group and with the Canadian Urban Group.  Henry was inducted into the YMCA Hall of Fame at Springfield College in 1994 in recognition of his 43 years of exceptional and creative leadership. On November 5, 1998, in recognition of his impressive contributions to the YMCA Movement, Henry J. D. Labatte was appointed a Companion of the YMCA Fellowship of Honour, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.


Henry had a passion for baseball, floor hockey, reading and jazz. At George Williams College, he was a member of the NCAA championship volleyball team. 


Henry’s uncompromising commitment to quality, service, and his commitment to human development along with his devotion and precision to the family were on full display in the management of Marie’s election campaign sign committee or the children’s paper route billing and collections.


Memorial donations can be made to the Henry Labatte YMCA Scholarship Fund, c/o Wendy McDowall, Chief Development Officer, YMCA of Greater Toronto, 2200 Yonge Street, Suite 300, Toronto ON M4S 2C6.  Condolences may be forwarded through www.humphreymiles.com.


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