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Born: May 18, 1935

Date of Passing: Dec 27, 2019

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May 18, 1935 - December 27, 2019

Peacefully, Don, loving husband, father, and grandfather, passed away at home.
He leaves behind his wife, Beverly, of 49 years; sons, Cameron (Holly), Michael (Andrea) and David (Jill); grandchildren, Emily, Maya, Cameron, Cole, Matthew, Emma, Owen, Anna, Elijah, Lauren and James; brother, Robert; and sisters, Eleanor, Flora, Effie and Marion.
Don was predeceased by parents, Sarah and James Robertson, parents-in-law, Maxwell and Kathleen Eyers, brothers, Cameron and Frederick, and sisters, Effie Maria and Olive.
Don was born and raised in Norway House, where he spent most of his youth on the land with family, or in the water at the shore on Robertson's Bay. Mentors and Elders in the church influenced Don, and this led him to Phoenix, Arizona, where he attended Cook Christian Training School. Becoming an ordained United Church Minister out of the University of British Columbia, Don was given the pastoral charge of a congregation in Melita, Manitoba. The church was across the street from the Eyers' residence, and his future wife, Beverly. They moved to Russell, Calgary, Brandon and finally, Winnipeg. During the 1970s, Don switched careers and became involved in Indigenous Education, a field where he had a profound impact. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Manitoba and Brandon University, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, and the Order of Manitoba.
Don's greatest love was family, and probably golf. His days were best spent with Bev, driving around the city to watch his grandchildren's many sporting events, at The Players Course in Winnipeg, and for two weeks every summer at Clear Lake. There, he would walk down to buy cinnamon buns every morning for his children and grandchildren, beat his sons at golf at Clear Lake Golf Course (repeatedly), or sit at the pier to look out over the water. Every morning at home in River Heights, he would do the crossword puzzle, and make Bev an egg and coffee for when she woke up.
He will be greatly missed by his wife, his family, and the many people he touched.
A funeral service will be held at Westworth United Church, 1750 Grosvenor Avenue, on Monday, January 6, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. Private interment will take place at a later date in Melita.
Instead of flowers, donations to the United Way or Siloam Mission would be appreciated.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Dec 31, 2019, Jan 04, 2020

Condolences & Memories (47 entries)

  • He was such a wise and wonderful man. - Posted by: Verna Eyers (family - in law) on: Mar 24, 2021

  • I knew Don through my work at the Manitoba Indian Education Association in the late 70's, early 80's. He, myself, and one or two others were the original staff at MIEA. He had full confidence in me as his Administrative Assistant, and I was sorry to see him move on to other ventures after 3 years. He was one of the most humble people I ever worked with, and all who knew him enjoyed his sense of humor and his laugh. He believed in everyone, helping them to reach their full potential. The last time we saw him was at his retirement, granted it appears he never totally retired. We will always have fond memories of Don. Our hearts go out to Bev and family. - Posted by: Bev and Rod Smith (Colleague and friend ) on: Feb 21, 2020

  • Don was a very kind man and leader. He had a wonderful sense of humour which served us all well in sticky situations. We need more like Don. My condolences to all of Don’s family. - Posted by: Lloyd Thomas ( Co-worker) on: Jan 14, 2020

  • Bev and family, I was a young when Rev. Robertson came to Melita, and I have nothing but amazing memories of him. He always had a twinkle in his eye and was quick to laugh. In 2012, Don graciously travelled to back to Melita to deliver the funeral services for my dad, Bill Russell - and it was such a blessing for Mom and the rest of us. I know that Don and Dad are enjoying many great conversations in heaven. He was a wonderful man and I truly believe that anyone Don met was better of for having a conversation with him - I know I am. Hugs to all. Laurie (Russell) Smith - Posted by: Laurie Smith (attended Melita United Church) on: Jan 13, 2020

  • I just learned of Don’s passing. He was such a wonderful human being! He was the Minister at the United Church in Melita when I was growing up; he had such a gift whether he was giving a sermon or just talking to someone—whether you were an adult or a child. He had a curiosity about others and was a warm and friendly person; he was quick to laugh and a great laugh he had! He was a very good friend of my father, Bill, who held him in very high regard. Family was very important to Don, and I’m sure his wife, Bev, their children and grandchildren were the source of his greatest happiness and pride. My thoughts are with them during this difficult time. - Posted by: Leslie Russell (Friend of Family) on: Jan 13, 2020

  • I was sorry to hear of Don's passing. I was fortunate to have worked with Don during my time at Brandon University and University of Manitoba. I always valued my interactions with him. He will be missed. Truly a life well-lived. - Posted by: Kathleen Matheos (colleague ) on: Jan 07, 2020

  • I was so sorry to hear of Don's passing, and so grateful to have had the chance to meet and talk with Don. As one of the folks working on the Collaborative Blueprint for Indigenous Education, I was moved and shaped by Don's knowledge and wisdom, and his stories and prayers in our meetings. Don's vision, kindness, humour, generosity, and hope shaped this group's work since its beginnings, long before I arrived at the table, and all of these gifts that Don gave will shape us long into the future, too. Thank you, Don. We will miss you greatly! - Posted by: Jonathan Dueck (Collaborative Blueprint for Indigenous Education Steering Committee Member / CMU Vice President Acad) on: Jan 07, 2020

  • My deepest condolences to Don's family. I wanted to say thank you for sharing him with us. He taught me so much, I was humbled by his kind and loving nature. He lived a long life, and we were so lucky to have him share even for a short time his knowledge, kindness and love with us here at MFNERC in our early learning meetings. I will always remember you and the teachings you brought...Mindy - Posted by: Mindy Sinclair (MFNERC early learning staff) on: Jan 06, 2020

  • I was saddened to hear of Don's passing. Through my involvement with the Manitoba School Boards Association, I have been blessed with many opportunities to converse and laugh with Don. I know I speak for all trustees in Manitoba when I say that his friendship and partnership with us will be deeply missed. I will think of him fondly the next time I tee off at Clear Lake and many times before that as well. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time. - Posted by: Alan Campbell (Colleague ) on: Jan 06, 2020

  • At this time I am thinking about Don. He was the man who hired me at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre as a Parental Involvement Facilitator in the year 2000. His smile was so gentle. During my interview he said, "come on, brag about youself". I never forgot these words & I kept them in my heart. I believed these words he said to me meant that I was "somebody". An Anishinabe woman who was capable of doing the work for our people. I always loved you like a dad. I will be forever grateful for your guidance & believing in me. You always shared your gentle hugs with me. I know that God our Creator welcomed you home with loving arms. You have finished your job here on earth. I love you & may God Bless your loving wife & family & everyone who got to know you. Ni na nas ko mon..thank you ! Sincerest condolences to all ! Ekosani - Posted by: Virginia Thomas (Director of MFNERC) on: Jan 05, 2020

  • My condolences to Bev and family in the loss of Donald Robertson. Mr. Robertson officiated at the wedding of me to Evelyn McKenzie in the United Church, Melita, MB, August 19, 1967. It was a first for both of us; with a little humor we all got through it okay. I am not surprised to read of his many life accomplishments and that he was a tower of strength, particularly in the fields of aboriginal education and leadership. We have all lost a great man. - Posted by: Herb Bagnall (Wedding United Church Melita) on: Jan 05, 2020

  • He was kind and never not intimidating for young people. Great children stories. Remember him fondly. Deepest Sympathies to Bev and family - Posted by: Cindy Omichinski nee Miner (Junior Choir Member Melita United Church ) on: Jan 04, 2020

  • I was saddened to see of Don's passing. He was a sage amember and advisor to the Board of Governors at RRC when I was also a member. I learned a lot from Don, he made a lasting impression on me as an educator, and I am very grateful. I'm sorry for your loss, I'm sure your families will miss his presence very much. - Posted by: Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong (Colleague) on: Jan 04, 2020

  • Today, I join all of you and admiring the life and mourning the loss of DON ROBERTSON. He was a man like no other I have known. He was a man of a brilliance and learning, a man of grace and style, a man who enjoyed the company of all ages. Don is a leader in our community, and a symbol, almost an icon, in the education field and achieved what many people hope we could personally. Our sincere sympathy to Don‘s family and friends. May his soul rest in peace. - Posted by: George Merasty (Colleague, Friend, Golf Buddy) on: Jan 03, 2020

  • Condolences to Bev and family, Don will be truly missed. I first knew Don through my mother, Maxine Geller, during their work together on the Core Area Initiative, where he had a real impact on her. Then, some years later, while living in northern Manitoba I had the opportunity and good fortune to work closely with Don as a member of the University College of the North Implementation Team. I learned so much from Don about leadership, building teams, Indigenous education, the importance of listening and learning from Elders, and the meaning of respect for all. Don was an incredibly generous man, I will not forget the ways in which he encouraged me and his kind smile and sense of humour when we met up for coffee at Robin's Donuts. - Posted by: Peter Geller (Mentee, ) on: Jan 03, 2020

  • Deepest sympathy on Don's passing. I have heard Don speak at several events, the most recent being the Manitoba School Boards Association regional meetings in the fall of 2019. I was always impressed by his positiveness and humor. May he rest in peace. - Posted by: Josie Landry (Louis Riel School Division Trustee) on: Jan 03, 2020

  • Don thank you for being a friend and a mentor in Indigenous education. You were the guiding light in the education field. The horse track at Assiniboine Downs will miss your presence and your zooniyah. Prayers and thoughts to your family. Derrick Henderson and Debra Swampy - Posted by: Derrick Henderson (Friend) on: Jan 02, 2020

  • I was very sadden when I heard that Elder Robertson had passed. I will miss his wisdom and kind words at the Shawane Dagosiwin Education Conference this coming April. Rest in Peace and condolences to the family. - Posted by: Kathy Mallett (Friend) on: Jan 02, 2020

  • I was a young girl when Don became the minister of the United Church for the area of Napinka, Melita and Pierson. I remember that he had such a calm and welcoming presence and always a twinkle in his eyes. His gentle spirit made me feel very welcome in the church. Sincere condolences to his entire family. - Posted by: Marie Matheson (One time member of Napinka U tied Church) on: Jan 01, 2020

  • Hi David. I fondly remember your dad cheering for us on the soccer sidelines. His strong hands gave the loudest clap, and all his cheering was always positive no matter the situation. Happy memories. Blessings to you and your family at this time. - Posted by: Joseph Langan (Friend) on: Jan 01, 2020

  • Always had a moment for open debate on federal provincial relationship. A man of knowledge, whom I respected. - Posted by: Shayne Lynxleg (Mentor) on: Jan 01, 2020

  • Bev and family, I am truly sorry to hear of Don’s passing. For three of the four years that I was the Executive Director of the Council on Post Secondary Education, Don was the Chair of the Council. I felt gifted to work with such a wonderful person. He was wise, witty, warm and incredibly supportive. With his wisdom, he helped to guide me through sensitive situations. He never lost sight of what was important and worked diligently to make sure all our goals were achieved. - Posted by: Louise Girdon (Work colleague ) on: Jan 01, 2020

  • Condolences and prayers to the family. Thanks for being you Don. Travel well. - Posted by: Rob Apetagon (Friend) on: Jan 01, 2020

  • Don Robertson Every now and then, the love of our Creator for his people shines through extraordinary people like Don Robertson. He has directly impacted the lives of many Indigenous people including myself and many Canadians in ways that will continue to resonate in the circle of opportunities for personal and community well-being and advancement. For years to come testimonials to his great contribution in education will be heard in the homes, schools, universities, conferences and throughout the traditional territories of First Nations. His kindness and leadership will be remembered Kakekay Mina Kakekay. Ovide Mercredi - Posted by: Ovide Mercredi (Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • I am saddened to hear of Don’s passing. He will be sadly missed by family, friends, and the community! He was a lovely person to work for and very encouraging person. My prayers and thoughts are with his family! - Posted by: Traci Lynn Reid (Former co-worker) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • If the measure of worth is in the good things done, in making our community and the world a better place, and in being kind, caring and respectful to all, then Don has lived on of the fullest lives of any one I know. His wisdom, integrity, empathy and humility made him a great leader, a wonderful colleague and a good friend. I learned so much from Don, and am grateful to have worked and played and laughed with him. Barbara and I send our deepest condolences. Don will be missed for a long, long time; and remembered always. - Posted by: Ken Webb (friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • I am sad to learn of Don’s death this Christmas week. I met Don through my work at the Dr. Jessie Saulteaux Resource Centre where he was generous in offering his time and wisdom as Elder. I remember in particular a conversation about the importance of recovering the oral tradition and the art of storytelling. This commitment lives on in his children as does the twinkle in his eyes I’m sure. Condolences to Bev and all his family. - Posted by: Norah McMurtry (Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • I worked alongside Don at Core Area in the 1980s, later in his leadership role with COPSE, and especially his absolutely key role in the establishment of the University College of the North. Don was a mighty figure, in my remembrance, whether joking or ‘moving the ball forward‘ on important issues, especially education issues affecting the lives of Indigenous Manitobans. Whether in official capacities and informal ones, Don was a presence and a voice for those not at the table. My deepest condolences to Don’s family. Pat Rowantree - Posted by: Pat Rowantree (Education Colleague) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Don's steadfastness and strength over the years supported movements in "Indian Education/Community Development" that would not have been possible without him. Don could be counted on to be there for the start-up of any initiative that would promote resurgence and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples. Don never had an issue of bringing traditional Indigenous cultural practices and Western ideas together in ways that could honour both. He was often the point man between worlds, brokering the logic that could be fleshed out in realities. He was there to support the narratives that people could live in and a draftsman of the theoreticians and architects because he knew how it had to work on the ground Don was a grandmaster of reconciliation long before it got formal labels or traction. His are big big big boots to fill. He will be missed! - Posted by: Marlene & Richard Atleo (Colleagues from early years in BC and latterly MB) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Deb and I often laugh about the time we attended the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards. Adam Beach was one of the hosts that evening and Deb was anxious to meet him but was being shy about it. We happened to be talking with Dave and Don and mentioned this. Don took Deb by the hand and walked her straight over to Adam for introductions and an autograph. That was just Don's way. Condolences on your loss Beverly and Dave and all the Robertson family. - Posted by: Deb & Miles McPherson (Colleague ) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • I am saddened to hear of Don’s passing. He was a very gentle soul. He will be deeply missed by his family and community! My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time! - Posted by: Traci Lynn Reid (Former co-worker) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Dear Bev and Family. While I was saddened to hear the news about Don, I was thankful he was able to have good health and live life to the fullest with the people he loved - his family. Thank you all for sharing him with us over the years, as he worked so hard to bring about positive change for our people and was humbly instrumental in many groundbreaking initiatives. He was an amazing man, mentor, and friend! He left us with so many teachings that challenged us to think, wisdom that left us in awe, memories of good times, and stories that captured the medicine of humour and nurtured our spirits - all these memories will continue to live on and bring a smile to our faces. Sending you all our love and prayers. Ekosani, Cynthia, Gerald and Family - Posted by: Cynthia Bird (Past Colleague and Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Dear Bev and Family. While I was saddened to hear the news about Don, I was thankful he was able to have good health and live life to the fullest with the people he loved - his family. Thank you all for sharing him with us over the years, as he worked so hard to bring about positive change for our people and was humbly instrumental in many groundbreaking initiatives. He was an amazing man, mentor, and friend! He left us with so many teachings that challenged us to think, wisdom that left us in awe, memories of good times, and stories that captured the medicine of humour and nurtured our spirits - all these memories will continue to live on and bring a smile to our faces. Sending you all our love and prayers. Ekosani, Cynthia, Gerald and Family - Posted by: Cynthia Bird (Past Colleague and Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Bev n family. Saddened to hear of Don’s passing. He was my boss for so many years. He always told me to take care of him. Glad now he’s gone home to heaven where he will be taken care of lovingly. Many blessings all of you love and prayers. Isla Little. - Posted by: Isla little (Friend mentor) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Dear Bev and Family, During his years as Chair of COPSE Don was the heart and soul of the Dept. Later he was involved in Post-secondary Education in so many ways. I think particularly of Helen Betty Osborne and the University College of the North--could not have happened without him- but he was always popping into my office with one group or another, always for good reason, always funny, easy going and quietly dignified. His work made a positive difference in the lives and rights of Manitobans, particularly his people Don was my most important mentor, advisor and supporter. I absolutely 100% trusted him, would trust with my life. Remembering him now, I recall his kindness and his respect for all people. If to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die, then Don, for certain, is with us still. Bev, my condolences and sympathies to you and your sons. Bless you all. Diane McGifford - Posted by: Diane McGifford (friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • The last time I saw Elder Don Robertson in person he provided the blessing at a conference organized by me and my team. He gave the blessing in his own language, Cree. Now the audience of over 500 attendees, I'm guessing, had no clue what he was saying. Regardless, the power of his words was not lost on us and for that I'm forever grateful. I'm also grateful for the note he passed me afterward. With a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he slid a folded piece of paper across the table, and quipped, "In case you want to know what I said." It was the English translation of his blessing. His wit, humor, intelligence and empathy for others will not be forgotten. Nor will his contributions to championing the rights of Indigenous people to quality education. My sincere condolences to his family on his passing. Don left an indelible mark on all who met him. He will be missed. It was an honour to both know and work with him. Respect. - Posted by: Kathy Knight, CEO (Colleague, Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • I got to chat with Don at a few of the Indigenous education conferences we both attended over the years. He had that gift of making everyone he met feel special. We never worked together or socialized together, yet he always took time to chat with me whenever we met up through our work. My heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends. He will be missed by the many touched by his warmth, kindness, wisdom, and gentle presence. Safe journey home, Don. - Posted by: Lisa Aymont Hunter (friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Thank you for your guidance, support, and leadership. Our communities are better off because you shared with us. - Posted by: michael hart (Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Mr Robertson or "Donnie" as we all use to tease, was a great man. As a longtime friend of his boys, I can honestly say this is one of the saddest days i'll know. Don always had a smile on his face and always took the time to say hello and check on how you and your family were doing. Don was one of the kindest people i had ever had the pleasure of meeting. I know i'll always be looking on the sidelines for his smiling face whenever my daughter plays Southend United. I would like to offer my condolences and hugs to all the Robertsons. John - Posted by: John Bellino (Friend of The family) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • RIP Don. A very good and respected man with whom I shared a love of golf. - Posted by: Paul Chartrand (Friend ) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • A long time family member who grew up with our mother Maudie in Norway House. Our love and prayers for Don and his family. May Creator bless you always. Travel well Dulas....❤️ - Posted by: Brenda & Glenn Sanderson (Cousin) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • My heartfelt condolences to you all. Don's quiet strength has been such a gift. Whether it was sharing a few laughs, providing advice, or working closely together over the time we spent establishing the University College of the North, Don's thoughtfulness, wisdom and humour has been so impactful to me and very much appreciated. Travel gently, ekosani my friend. - Posted by: Veronica Dyck (Friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Bev and family, I am so saddened to hear of Don’s passing. I have such great memories of his gentle smile and quiet laugh. A truly wonderful man. Please know you are all in my prayers. Hugs to all of you. Maureen - Posted by: Maureen McDonald (Receptionist at Dr. Sutherland’s office) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Bev and family, We still remember Don as the minister who married us 49 years ago in Melita and Bev as a family friend from when I was growing up. Bob later worked with Don in retirement years as a R.R.C.C. continuing education instructor, and we sometimes saw him at events there. He still remembered us! Your son, Michael, married a Charleswood girl who attended the same elementary school as our boys and I knew her mother, Vi, quite well. We are thinking of all your family at this sad time and remembering Don for his kindness,friendliness and many achievements. Take care. - Posted by: Bev(nee Brown) and Bob Russell (friend from Melita) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Sending prayers to the family, Don was our elder and a very kind friend. He always had something nice and wonderful to say, a strong advocate for the language and our people. We will miss the old man, walk carefully on that spiritual journey to our creator. Always thinking, take care. Lloyd Swampy - Posted by: Lloyd Swampy Sr & family (Mentor and working friend) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • So grateful to have met Don, that he was in my life. I will always remember him with his smile just like in the photo shown. He called me "his nurse", and always dropped by my office and chatted for a bit. Don brought an instant calm and I so appreciated his prescence. He was so kind and wise and gentle. My sincere condolences to the Robertson family, we are so blessed to have had Don in our lives. - Posted by: Frances Desjarlais (he was my elder) on: Dec 31, 2019

  • Donald A Robertson, what a character! I was Don’s secretary at Brandon University in the 70’s and what a kind, gentle funny person he was. He had a great sense of humour and was passionate about making life better for his fellow northerners and yes, golf. He and Bev were such a handsome couple with their three cute little boys. I’m proud to read of all his accomplishments and send condolences to his family. He was larger than life and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with you all. - Posted by: Donelda Whyte (Former co-worker. ) on: Dec 31, 2019

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