Al Horning – A man of many accomplishments
HodgePodge by Charlie Hodge
Al Horning pretty much did everything. Most of the time with a disconcerting sort of grin on his mug.
When he gave you that look you knew he was about to tell you what he really thought of what ever it was you may have said or done. Either way – Al rarely minced words. He was a straight shooter, a no-nonsense kind of guy who loved people and made them better just by knowing them. When Al put his mind to something it was going to get done. And Al did lots.
Sadly the man who some dub the ‘King of Rutland’, is gone. Al died Monday and the world is less one wonderful man. To suggest Al was a Kelowna icon is an understatement, almost insulting. Talking about Al is not so much a case of telling what he did but trying to think of something he didn’t.
First and foremost, he loved his family and friends. Then he loved his community. His passion was sports and people at which he excelled with both.
Most folks today likely know Horning as a veteran politician who served Kelowna at all three levels of government: a Kelowna city councillor from 1980 to 1988 (four two-year terms), a Progressive Conservative MP in Okanagan Centre from 1988 to 1993, then a City Councillor again for three more years from 2002 to 2005, then a MLA with the B.C. Liberals for Kelowna-Lake Country from 2005 to 2009.
His continual efforts as an MP to lobby for federal approval and funds to extend the runway at YLW, helped set the course for the airport to become one of the top 10 busiest airports in Canada.
Many others will remember him best for his love of sports, particularly softball, hockey, and snowmobiling. Like everything he entered Al Horning was a tenacious competitor and won multiple championships as a snowmobile racer. He was a founding member of the Kelowna Snowmobile Association.
Softball and baseball owned his heart. Along with a number of other dedicated players Horning helped build King Stadium with volunteer labour after convincing the city to provide them with the land. He founded the Kelowna Softball Association and served as GM of the semi-professional Kelowna Heat.
It was no shock when he was inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in 2021 for his contribution to sports in the city.
It was ball that brought Al and I together for the first time (if my foggy memory servs me right). It was the late 1970’s and he was either playing or managing his ball club, regardless he arrived in my Capital News office one day where I was playing sportswriter, and plunked a case of beer on my desk. I was on a deadline, but Al didn’t care.
“What’s that,” I stuttered looking up from my Remington typewriter.
It’s a case of beer you dummy– what do you think it is,” he said, hands on his hips and looking a tad testy.
“And…,” I said giving the I’m confused shrug.
“I figure if that’s what it takes to get you off your butt, and to grab your camera and come out and check some great baseball we are playing, then it’s worth it,” he fumed pulling out a schedule. “We have a tournament this weekend and it would be nice to see you there. We could use some support,” Al said as he tossed the schedule on my table, turned around and left.
I went to the tournament, and we became friends. That was Al Horning.
Born in Saskatchewan in 1939 his family first visited Kelowna in the mid 1940’s and wasted no time packing up and moving here within a year or two. Al grew up in Rutland and attended Rutland Secondary School. His love for Rutland never diminished.
Al held various jobs over the years including working in orchards, sawmills, shipping, real estate, business, retail… however it was the world of politics where Horning shined. His tenacity, concentration, and never quit mentality thrived in the political realm and his love for people and ability to listen championed his hard work.
A few weeks ago City Council honored Al when we announced a future road linking Rutland and Kelowna International Airport would be named Al Horning Way. We presented him with the sign and his grin lit the room. Horning called the dedication an honour, saying, “It’s been great serving the people of the city.”
“Kelowna is a better place because of Al Horning’s countless contributions. He represents the epitome of community service,” Mayor Tom Dyas stated.
Al Horning was 83.