September 21st, 1943 – June 13th, 2021
On the last day of summer 1943, in the capital city of army neutral Switzerland, Beat Schatzmann bound into the world alongside his fraternal twin, Hans. Alice & Werner Schatzmann were passionate people, bringing five children into the world in just four years. Beat grew up on May-Weg in beautiful Bern. He would recount stories from his childhood that were filled with mischief and adventure, usually alongside his three brothers, (Peter, Bernhard & Hans), often under the watchful eye of their sister Verena. Summer holidays were spent at the family cabin on Lake Murten, where days were filled with swimming and sailing and plenty of horseplay. The Schatzmanns were a competitive bunch, participating in sports of all sorts; however, Beat lived for soccer. A small but quick and tenacious lefty, he helped his team win the Bern city championships as un underage player in 1959.
Despite the support and encouragement of his parents to pursue a ‘respected’ profession, Beat discovered early that he wanted to work with horses. At the age of 19, he traveled on his own to Canada by boat, with not much more than his dream to become a thoroughbred horse racing jockey. While he could never make the weight to pursue a career as a jockey, he would go on to have a thrilling and successful career in the horse race industry. He started out mucking stalls, doing film patrol and working the valet parking at Woodbine racetrack. Eventually he worked his way into more illustrious ventures. A trusted workout jockey, Beat was assigned to train many of Woodbine's best horses, some of whom turned out to be Grade 1 stakes champions at races around the globe. He worked at the National Stud Farm for EP Taylor and proudly lived in small living quarters above Canada’s all time championship race horse and leading sire, Northern Dancer. He was a "happy camper" during these early days in Canada, as he would commonly say.
On a whirlwind trip back home to Switzerland in 1972 (with travel costs undoubtedly covered by a win at the track), he met and fell madly in love with the woman of his dreams who had been working in the Alpine ski village of Wengen. To nobody’s surprise, he took a chance on love and proposed to Christine three weeks into their courtship. As it turned out, this would be the best gamble of his life. Although slightly distracted by the Canada USSR Summit Series, on September 25 1972, 29 people gathered to celebrate their wedding in Norwood, Ontario. Their first born arrived the following year. The births of all 3 of their children, Markus, Chris & Tanya were timed with Swiss precision - each arriving at the end of the horse race season.
Beat loved the track life and could have chosen to become a horse trainer, a career that would take him to horse races around the world, but instead he said he chose a path that would keep him close to home. In 1977 he became a thoroughbred race horse farm manager and moved the young family to Alberta for the first time to manage Harlequin Ranches, a picturesque farm along the Bow River just south of Indus. Work days on the farm were long but Beat took great pride in developing a world class facility on the Alberta prairies. As the economy in Alberta struggled in the early 1980’s, Harlequin Ranches moved to Ontario where the horse racing industry was still strong and vibrant. After a few years at Harlequin he got the opportunity to manage Stronach Stables on the outskirts of Aurora, Ontario. There, he helped develop the Stronach racing and breeding programs into a worldwide leader in the horse racing industry.
Summers in Aurora included canoe camping trips to Algonquin Park, many memorable long visits from Swiss relatives and the occasional family ski trip. Beat retired from the horse race industry in 1992 and agreed to Christine’s wishes to move to the mountains. Despite being known for saying “I could live here” anytime he came across a small, cozy living space, Beat & Christine moved to a beautiful home in the Canmore neighbourhood of Rundleview where they continued to raise their family and enjoy mountain life, surrounded by wonderful neighbours and the great outdoors.
Beat had 18 spectacular years working for Stumbock Club as a Ski guide for International guests. He loved the heli-skiing opportunities and the people he met. It wasn’t uncommon for returning groups to request him to guide and a special few even became forever friends. Whether guests enjoyed his stories from his days on the race track, his silly antics (there were many!) or that he could lay it down on the dance floor, a lot of fun and memorable times were had by Beat and his guests! Once the kiddies were grown, Beat & Christine kept up their adventurous spirit and traveled twice a year in what they affectionately called their “shaggin’ wagon” to Loreto, what was then a little known town in the Mexican Baja.
Beat was an impressive and charming story teller - beyond his incredible life experiences, he rarely missed a name, date or other relevant details, all shared with a twinkle in his eye, a thick Swiss German accent and usually a humorous punch line!
True to his word about not needing much for himself, it wasn’t long after his beloved wife died in 2015, that he chose to sell the family home and move into a small, cozy suite with his daughter’s young family. He enjoyed hearing the sounds of his grandsons above and their regular, lively visits. He spent his last few years continuing to golf at the Canmore Golf & Curling Club, where he was an exceptionally well treated member for over 25 years. Although he still enjoyed travelling, it wasn’t quite the same without Chrigi by his side. He stayed a little closer to home, cheering on his grandchildren at the hockey rink, swimming pool, dance studio and on the soccer pitch and taking long daily walks with his cherished family dogs.
Beat regularly used the expression “It’s a long way from your heart” to emphasize how most things in life that we confront are manageable. He endured health problems in late 2010 that threatened his life and left him with an enlarged heart. While it slowed him down somewhat, he was proud to still be able to keep up to most men half his age and he would regularly take on challenges of strength or speed with his kids and grandchildren. “Are you made of sugar?” he would say to anyone not up for the challenge! In recent weeks, he began to feel unwell. He went into hospital on June 10th and was diagnosed with advanced heart failure. So, to make a long story short, on another beautiful day in the Rocky Mountains, with his three loving children by his side, he died a peaceful death.
“Guys, I had a good life. I got to do all the things I wanted to do and I’m proud of my kids and grandkids. What more can a guy ask for? Stick together through thick and thin. I’m not a religious person, but wouldn’t it be something if I were to be together with Chrigi again?”
Predeceased by his wife Christine (nee Gilgen) of Bern Switzerland, brothers Hans and Bernhard, his sister Verena, his parents Alice & Werner.
Survived by his brother Peter (Regula) Schatzmann, his children Markus (Jennifer) Schatzmann, Chris (Ella-Jean) Schatzmann, Tanya (Danny) Wood, grandchildren: Emilie, Josef, Lucas, Cody, Nelly, North & Eamon as well as many Swiss relatives including several nieces and nephews.
Beat asked that there not be a celebration of life event. Instead, he would urge you to call someone you care about, say hello to someone new at the dog park, get out and enjoy nature and give someone special a tight hug.
Our family would like to thank Dr. Brandon Hone for his care, the Emergency team at the Canmore Hospital for keeping Beat alive and the Cardiac ICU team at the Foothills for stabilizing him so that we could see him one more time, you are all amazing at what you do. Thank you for making a difference in the world.