Octogenarian Story Teller Extraordinaire

I read in the Winnipeg Free Press on the weekend that Roland Penner had died.  He was a high-profile lawyer, a professor at the University of Manitoba, member of the Manitoba legislature, and served as the province’s attorney general.   I knew him however as a storyteller.  

Photo by Joe Bryska/Winnipeg Free Press

In 2012 I took a course from Roland at the McNally Robinson Community Classroom called Winnipeg Fact and Fiction where he told stories about events from Winnipeg history and then introduced us to books that had those same events as their focus.  I remember three of the classes in particular. One in which he taught us about the Winnipeg strike and we looked at Margaret Sweatman’s novel Fox.  Another where he described famous criminal cases tried in Winnipeg and introduced us to Heather Robertson’s biography of robber Kenneth Leishman The Flying Bandit and another where we examined the Winnipeg immigrant experience and Fredelle Maynard’s memoire Raisins and Almonds. 

In 2012 I had just moved to Winnipeg and taking the course from Roland was a great way to connect with the history of the city that was to be my new home. He made every class so interesting.  He was 86 at the time. In one of the blog posts I wrote about the course I described Roland as an ‘octogenarian story teller extraordinaire’. It is clear from his obituary Roland Penner lived his life story to the fullest and left an extraordinary mark on our province’s and city’s histories. He was 93. 

Other posts……..

Winnipeg General Strike

The Flying Bandit

 Winnipeg Mennonite Immigrant Fiction


Filed under History, People, Winnipeg

2 responses to “Octogenarian Story Teller Extraordinaire

  1. I attended law school when he taught criminal law there and I was always disappointed that I did not get to take his class. My first experience with him was when he spoke on a panel discussion on obscenity at University College in 1967 my first year at University I was totally engrossed by him. I think with hindsight that day was instrumental in me going to law school 4 years later. He also defended friends of mine who made a young man’s mistake in a very serious case. He won the case by saying, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Not bad for a many who I believe was not religious. Fortunately, I did get to know him personally years later when we both taught at the Law School he as a senior scholar and me as a lowly sessional instructor. He was a great man. I will miss him.


    • The people who knew him all speak of him in such a respectful way. Did you hear Glen Murray’s comments at the Pride Parade about him? I remember when I was taking the class from him I hoped I could still be as knowledgeable and interesting as he was at 86. He died of complications from breaking his ankle on his way to his weekly bridge game at 93. He certainly seems to have lived life to the fullest.


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