July 25, 1956 – May 20, 2023
Irwin passed away peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, on May 20, 2023 after a courageous battle with cancer. Irwin was predeceased by his parents, Heinrich and Katherine Driedger; brother, William Driedger; and sister, Ruth Driedger. Irwin is survived by his brother, Levi Driedger (Dorothy); brother, Harry Driedger (Norah), sister, Linda Unrau (John); brother, Edward Driedger; brother, Alvin Driedger (Sandra); brother-in-law Wayne Reiner; and nieces and nephews. Irwin is also survived by his loving partner, Leslie Soever, and her family who are honored to have Irwin as part of the family: children, Emma Roy (Keith); Alan Soever (Brooke); grandchildren Logan and Clara Roy; mother, Joyce Brown; sister-in-law, Sandra Brown (Edward Waller); sister-in-law, Julie Helt (Bruno Helt); and nieces.
Irwin was a native of Manitoba. His professional life spanned several facets of the horse racing industry. Irwin began his career as a professional jockey earning many accolades: 1979 Manitoba Athlete of the Year; 1981 recipient of the Joe Perlove Trophy as Canada’s leading percentage rider; 1981 record number of wins (214) in one year at Assiniboia Downs (which still stands); 1981 Sovereign Award Winner as Canada’s Outstanding Jockey; winner of derbies in all western provinces; rider of the 1985 Canadian Horse of the Year, “Imperial Choice”; 1998 recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award, for significant contributions to the sport of horse racing by a Canadian jockey. The pinnacle of Irwin’s accomplishments will be his induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in the Jockey Category in 2023. Sadly, Irwin will miss the ceremony. Fortunately, he was aware of this honour and was so proud. Upon his retirement as a jockey, Irwin represented jockeys across Canada as President of the Jockeys’ Benefit Association of Canada from 1990-2006; and 2019-21. Irwin’s advocacy and leadership were instrumental in Canadian jockeys being the first in North America to wear safety vests. From 2006-18, Irwin was the Director of Thoroughbred Racing Surfaces at Woodbine Racetrack, where he was highly respected by his North American peers. In this regard, his expertise related to racing surfaces, including synthetic tracks, was often sought. Irwin’s attention to detail and concern for horse and rider safety were always paramount.
Irwin will be remembered by family and his many friends for his inspirational passion for life. As you can imagine, with Irwin being a jockey, he loved speed. This was a common thread among his many pursuits including boating, snowmobiling, and driving his sports cars. Irwin also loved being outdoors mowing the lawn, harvesting firewood, and maintaining his property. Golf was another deep passion of Irwin’s that allowed him to enjoy time with his friends while also showcasing his competitive spirit.
As a person, Irwin was generous always offering a helping hand, inquisitive, opinionated, looked out for the underdog, determined, courageous, respectful, funny, and an all round solid person with a heartwarming smile. It is these traits that made Irwin the special person who touched many lives.
Special thanks to Dr. Geoffrey Liu and Dr. Breffni Hannon at Princess Margaret Hospital for their medical expertise and personalized care. If desired, donations may be made, in Irwin’s memory, to The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, The Avelino Gomez Memorial Foundation, or charity of choice.
The family will receive their friends at the Egan Funeral Home, 203 Queen St. S. (Hwy. 50), Bolton (905-857-2213) on Tuesday, August 1 from 1 – 3 and 5 – 8 o’clock. A funeral and celebration of Irwin’s life will be held in the chapel on Wednesday, August 2, at 11 o’clock. Condolences for the family may be offered at www.EganFuneralHome.com
Condolences to Irwins family and friends in this tough time
My heartfelt condolences to Leslie and to the families of irwin and Leslie! The world is indeed made a better place as a result of Irwin having been present in it. May the strength and love that is present in you all, as shared with Irwin, sustain you with optimism and cradled comfort as you move forward through the coming days. My thoughts are with you always!
My sincere condolences to Irwin’s family and friends. I had the honour of sharing time with Irwin and Leslie. He was, as mentioned, always generous with his time and advice in helping others. His loss is deeply felt. I count myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to know such a wonderful person, and will keep the memories close.
My thoughts are with all during this difficult time.