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Date of Passing: Aug 20, 2010

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DONALD RICHARD BROWNE Don Browne, our beloved husband, father and grandfather died in peace on Friday, August 20, 2010. He is lovingly remembered by his wife Lesia Peet, his daughters Ruth Asper (David Asper), Miriam Browne (Kevin McElrea) and Annette Browne (John Shultis), as well as his grandchildren Daniel, Rebecca and Max Asper. He will also be missed by his first wife Rachel Browne, extended family, his siblings and family in the U.S.A., and many friends. Donald Richard Browne was born in 1924, the eighth of nine children, and grew up in Strawberry Mansion, a working-class neighbourhood in Philadelphia. He spent his formative years in the middle of the American Depression era, and those impoverished times made powerful and lasting impressions on him. As a young man, Don joined the U.S. Military, where he served in Europe immediately following the end of the Second World War. After returning to the United States he enrolled at Penn State University and began his lifelong work as a social activist, participating in anti-racist demonstrations to ensure equality of access and treatment for African Americans. Part of his diverse work history includes several years as a longshoreman in New York City where he became involved in union organizing. In 1958, Don and Rachel Browne moved to Winnipeg to facilitate her career as a dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The couple's three daughters, Ruth, Miriam and Annette, were born during their time together. Don returned to university after his move to Winnipeg and completed a Bachelor of Social Work degree (1959) and Master of Social Work degree (1961) at the University of Manitoba. As a Social Worker, Don was employed by the Notre Dame Day Centre, the Society for Crippled Children and Adults and finally, Mount Carmel Clinic, where he was employed as a front-line Social Worker for more than 30 years. His work with individuals, families and the community contributed to the centre's development from a small facility to one of the most respected primary community resources in the north end of Winnipeg. The quality and sincerity of Don's social justice work was well-known, and as a result, he was often called upon in situations of crisis and trauma. Don remained with Mount Carmel Clinic, in a front line Social Work position, until 2001 when he reluctantly retired at age 77. A lifetime social activist, Don contributed significantly and directly to the development and provision of quality Social Work services in the province of Manitoba. He was one of the first members of the Manitoba Association of Social Workers in the early 1960s and was also involved in the Winnipeg Labour Council. He was active in the formation of the Manitoba Peace Council and the development of Legal Aid Manitoba. Don was also a supporter of the Manitoba Action Committee on the Status of Women, a founding member of Osborne House and worked for many years on the planning committee for International Women's Day celebrations. One of Don's favourite commitments was acting as the Marshal of the Annual Walk for Peace in downtown Winnipeg. In addition to his political and professional pursuits, Don was a very active and involved parent of Ruth, Miriam and Annette. All of his daughters have developed leadership roles in their respective careers and remain closely connected to their Winnipeg family roots. He was known as Papa Don to Daniel, Rebecca and Max Asper and never missed an opportunity to visit his grandchildren with Lesia to share his unique humour and wisdom. Don was an affectionate partner to his wife Lesia Peet, an educator, with whom he enjoyed a loving relationship for the past 30 years. Don and Lesia have been great supporters of the Winnipeg arts community including the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society, the Manitoba Opera Company, the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and the Fringe Festival. When not at concerts, Don and Lesia made many trips on this continent and abroad. In recent years, they enjoyed meaningful visits with Don's younger brother Lawrence, niece Jeannie Posner and their families. Throughout his life, Don contributed in countless ways to his family, the lives of individuals and the community at large; he was a citizen of change in our society and a determined social activist. Until the end of his time with us, Don remained a lover of life, a peacenik and a master of puns and the quirks of the English language! Don was best known for his positive outlook because, as he often said, Attitude is everything . In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to organizations that reflect Don's values, such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra or the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society. A memorial in celebration of Don's life will be held on Monday, August 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. at the Assiniboine Park Pavilion (2nd Floor), 55 Pavilion Crescent, Winnipeg.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Aug 23, 2010

Condolences & Memories (1 entries)

  • As I continue to learn to age with grace, I reflect upon individuals who have helped in that journey. During the tumultuous years of my late teens and early 20s I was so fortunate to have Don as a mentor. Back in the mid-70s, issues of mental health were still considered a weakness of character. Don was my first introduction to dispelling those perceptions… he was a beacon of hope for a path to well being. I am sure that I was not the only mentoree who literally had their shoe laces untied by him “Now let’s see you demonstrate your abilities…let’s start small…you know, that is no small feat”…he loved puns… I retied my shoes, we laughed and so began Don’s huge contribution to my journey of healing. Don was all about making choices…good or bad…“We learn from our choices…you chose to come and see me…you will choose to take what you want from the conversations that we have… it’s your choice.” I learned about “one finger pointing and three pointing back”… blaming does not resolve one’s conflicts. I learned that if you have a talent…share it with others. Don helped me take necessary risks… risks that promote positive change…for one’s self and ultimately for family and community. At first we would meet at his office at the Mount Carmel Clinic… we would chat… we would talk about next steps… we would talk about local and global issues… about playing music in brass bands…about painting the hoods of vehicles flat black so the glare is reduced while driving… about peace and stain glass peace doves…about women’s rights and equality and ideas about the objectification of women…well before those words would become commonly known in the 1990s. Don would say “You can’t change others…the only person that you can change is yourself… so work on that… then work on Bigger Picture items that you think need some changing… there’s no simple pill for that.” Sharing stories, laughter and doing for others were the cornerstones that Don passed to me…and I am sure countless others. I am grateful for the opportunities that Don helped guide me towards… here’s to paying it forward and acts of kindness. - Posted by: Jeff Lehman (Mentoree) on: Nov 10, 2020

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