April 19, 1933 – January 21, 2023
In the early morning hours of January 21, 2023, with his family by his side, Don’s ‘golden heart’ stopped beating. He was born April 19, 1933 on the banks of the Icelandic River in the Vestri District. A severe flood in 1946 caused the family to move to the Framnes District settling on the corner of Highway 68 and Vidir Road. During his childhood years, Don helped on the family farm.
In 1952-53 he attended Normal School. He taught for 7 years – Lowland, Arborg, Cummings, Waldersee (3 years) and Geysir. In 1959-1960 he worked as a mine laborer and cage tender for Patrick-Harrison Company in Thompson. The company asked him to stay and work for them but his sights were set on getting married and he didn’t want to take a young bride out to what then was almost wilderness territory. He was always thinking of others.
Don and Hedy married on August 20, 1960 at the Arborg Evangelical Lutheran Church. He left his teaching career when he was hired as a driver salesman for the Arborg Co-op. He was quickly promoted to the position of Manager of the Farm Supply Centre. He worked diligently for the Co-op until December 1966. He had been approached and asked to apply for the position of Assistant Secretary for the Evergreen School Division and began his job on January 2, 1967. In 1969 he became Secretary Treasurer and worked faithfully for the division until his retirement in 1993. He was a very dedicated employee, never asking for any special considerations. Being the quiet individual that he was, one school trustee from Arborg said, “Don is a man of few words, but when he speaks, we all listen”.
In his retirement Don enjoyed many hobbies. Due to a severe illness he spent an entire winter indoors. At that time his dear mother taught him to knit mittens and socks on an auto-knitting machine and he still mastered this art on Hedy’s grandmother’s knitting machine, making many pairs for family. Don enjoyed his woodworking hobby. He made tea carts, stools, dining room chairs, foot stools, plant stands, art easels, coffee tables, bird houses, and two amazing playhouses for the grandchildren and a beautiful dining room table for a grandson’s wedding gift. He also created miniature replicas of haying equipment, a caboose, rakes etc. which he donated to the Arborg Cultural Heritage Museum. All his crafts were donated for various fundraising events, used as shower gifts, or simply given away “just because’. He also completely restored the families 1939 Model H John Deere. The young grandchildren and many others enjoyed the opportunity of riding around the yard with their Afi.
Don’s volunteer activities included serving as Church Council member and Board Chairman both in Arborg and Gimli Lutheran Churches; taught Sunday School and Confirmation classes; member of the Arborg Chamber of Commerce; Advisory Committee of the Arborg Credit Union; Gimli-Winnipeg Beach Planning Commission; the Icelandic Cultural Corporation - setting up the first Gimli Museum in the old fish plant building – presented with life-time membership; member for 4 years of the Executive Board of the Central Canada Synod; Financial Secretary for Gimli Lutheran Church; Betel Board of Directors – chairman of the Chapel Fund raising Committee when the new Betel was built; Betel Advisory Committee; member at large of the Gimli NDP Association; Kiwanis Club of Gimli; member of the Manitoba Association of School Business Officials and the Gimli and Area R.C.M.P. Community Consultation Group. In April of 2016 Don was inducted into the Evergreen School Division Hall of Fame for his “outstanding contribution to Education in the Evergreen School Division.”
Don visited all the Canadian provinces and travelled to various parts of the U.S. In 2001, in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary, Don and Hedy travelled to Iceland. Don’s mother was born in Iceland and was the only one of 14 living children to come to Canada. Therefore, countless relatives opened their hearts and homes to us. It was an amazing trip.
Don’s mind remained clear to his final day. He had said he would go out smiling and he not only smiled but winked. As we sat reminiscing, Don said that his greatest legacy and the most important part of his life was his family. He was a wonderful devoted husband and an amazing father to his children.
Don is survived by his loving and devoted wife Hedy, four children, nine grandchildren and 5 (almost six) great grandchildren – son Don (Tanys), Spencer (Tristen), Evan, Sydney (Brandon); daughter Cindy (Randy), Angela (Andy), Oliver & Owen, Alicia (Chad); son Peter (Joanne), Kieran, Dane, Iris; daughter Judy (Derek), Cole (Rebecca), Dylan (Melissa), Lane & Noa. He is also survived by his youngest sister Margaret Tobin (Nils), sister-in-law Nell Bjornson, sister-in-law Lilja Holm (Clifford), brother-in-law, George Hay, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents Gudmundur Bjornson and Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir; siblings and spouses, Jack (Sveinbjorg), Franklin (Runa), John, Thor (Kristin), Solrun (Peter), Siggi (Mary), nephew, Kris Bjornson, great nephew Braden Bjornson, Hedy’s parents, Jonas & Inga Johnson, sister-in-law, Joan Hay, brother-in-law, David Johnson, and niece, Debbie Johnson.
The family wishes to thank Dr. I. Unarain, Ekosi staff and all the staff (doctor, nurses, HCAs, housekeeping and dietary) at the Gimli Hospital for the amazing care and concern shown to Don and the whole family. Donna W. you are truly incredible. Thank you also to Cary Chapnick, our doctor for over 20 years and now a family friend, for his concern.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 4, 2023 at the Gimli Lutheran Church, 53-3rd Avenue, Gimli, MB with Pastor Keith Peterson officiating. The service will be livestreamed via the following zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85003288966?pwd=cngrcy9nRDRCRDVtYkdRa1ZTZXNXdz09 Meeting ID: 850 0328 8966 Passcode 12345.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gimli Lutheran Church, Box 118, Gimli, Mb. ROC 1BO or a charity of your choice.
Rest in Peace - until we meet again - Góða nótt elskan