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Born: May 24, 1938

Date of Passing: Aug 07, 2020

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Oliver James Monkman (Jr.) passed away suddenly on August 7, 2020, in his adopted home of Gimli, MB. Dad had won many battles during his 82 years, however in the end, his fight against an aging body and his propensity to working too hard, loving too hard and playing too hard; proved too much. His body had simply told him, "'s time."
Oliver (Dad, Papa, Buddy, Mutt), left us to be reunited with some of his most cherished family members and friends. His strength, courage, wisdom and undying love will continue to be an inspiration to all those who were lucky enough to know him.
Everlasting memories are left with his devoted and loyal wife of 38 years, Lesley; his sons, Murray (Allison), Jeffrey (Irish), Duane and Orton (Jenny). Also left to mourn are his younger sisters, Edna Marks, Dora Orvis (Glen) and Olive Monkman; in-laws, Phil Hudson (Gisele) and Jeff Hudson (Veanne); his numerous nieces and nephews; as well as his aunts, Verna Yerex, Mary Flett and Sarah Fedak. Oliver was predeceased by his father and mother, Oliver and Jenny Monkman; as well as his in-laws, Murray and Kit Hudson.
From the time they were born, his grandchildren, specifically Molly and Zoey, became the center of his life. In turn, they became his biggest admirers. Dad began to breathe new life after Molly was born and then again a couple years later, when Zoey came in to the world. He was so very proud of them and most often they became the main topic of discussion for him and anyone who he spoke to. He loved that they would play his music and 'jig.'
Oliver was born in Norway House, MB on May 24, 1938, where he attended the Norway House Day School and then the school on West Island that his grandfather provided for his grandchildren and other kids living on West Island. At the age of 14, he moved south to Matheson Island and began to develop his eternal desire to be constantly occupied. Over the years he had many jobs - he drove bombardier freight trains to communities all over northern Manitoba. He was a commercial fisherman on Lake Winnipeg for 45 years. Learning the trade from his uncle Tiny Monkman, fishing and the waves of Lake Winnipeg would forever be his most favourite place to be and his happiest moments were when he could sit, while watching and hearing waves crashing into the shore. Murray, Jeff, Duane and Orton all had their share of rough waters and fish.
He worked tirelessly to achieve his goals and saw his countless ideas and visions become reality, no matter how daunting they may have been. The word quit was not in his vocabulary and he believed that his whole purpose in life was to provide and care for his family; including anyone else who needed help along the way. He was taught to be kind and generous and he lived this way to the very end. He fought for the underdog and often he thrived at proving the impossible was possible. For this reason, his family was so very proud of him and why he was recently described as a man who will be remembered as one who strived to make a difference, one who never settled for the status quo.
He built his first house by hand cutting down each tree, milling every board and hammering every nail. He built a bombardier with only a drill, some sheet metal and fasteners, this vehicle later became the first ambulance and taxi service in Norway House before roads were developed in the community and he began his life as an entrepreneur. After the roads had been established, he continued this business using a station wagon to transport people. He was then to become a diamond driller helping build the two mile channel for the Hydro Diversion into Lake Winnipeg. This also led to time diamond drilling near Hay River, NWT where his uncle Percy lived.
After working away for a period time, he moved to Winnipeg where he became a mechanic and started his training to become a pilot in St. Andrews. Once becoming a mechanic in the 1970s, he established Monkman's Garage, where often his sons and nephews were working beside him during this time. Together Lesley and Oliver operated the garage, the Pit Stop restaurant and in later years, after they moved, operating the Camp Morton Trading Post. The boys, nieces, nephews and their friends, always had a place to work.
Moving to Gimli in 1989, was a big change from living in the north. He made everything an experience and he did so even with this move as he and his family loaded up his whitefish boat to the brim and then travelled the distance to Gimli with his parents with him. The experience of moving to a new community by boat and pulling into the Gimli Harbour for the first time was something that may have not happened since the community was first established. He often joked, that we were fresh off the boat in Gimli.
Oliver was such a proud man, especially of his heritage and Indigenous roots, which lead him to become a leader. He was one of the original people who envisioned the belief that the Metis people of Manitoba needed to have their own voice when bargaining with senior levels of government. His work along with many others from Metis communities across the province lead to the original formation of the Manitoba Metis Federation in 1967. For the next 36 years, he represented, fought for the recognition and equality from this point, until his retirement. He served as Vice President for the MMF in the North and later he was the VP for the Interlake region for two terms, starting locals in Gimli and Teulon. He additionally ran in a provincial election in the 1970s for the Liberal government and was appointed as a board member for Northern Transportation Canada by the Federal government. His life's work allowed him to know people everywhere! His ability to speak fluently in Cree and Salteaux; as well as his love to dance and play many instruments made him someone that people so easily loved and were drawn to.
Once his sons had all grown up, he was forever grateful that he was able to look after his father in-law's family homestead, Poplar Grove, in Dugald. It allowed him to give Lesley the opportunity to live in the home where she grew up.
In the later years, he moved back to Gimli to be closer to his granddaughters and reconnect with many old friends, he continued to tell the stories of the lake, the north and the years of hard work. Dad was so proud of his son's accomplishments, whether it was at the rink, on the stage, in a grease pit, or just being in contact with him for a quick chat and always a hug and kiss.
He left his sons, grandchildren, nieces and nephews with enough lessons and teachings to fill a whitefish boat. The ability to "find a way to get the job done," to love unconditionally and with no end, to respect all you encounter and to have fun while doing it, even if the teasing was at someone's expense.
The family will be forever grateful to the Adult Day Program in both Oakbank Kin Place and then in the last four years at the Gimli Adult Day Program, where he continued to forge new friendships. The family will be forever indebted for the programs and the lifeline that the day programs provided to Oliver and Lesley. In addition, numerous home care workers and staff made friendships with him in his home while Lesley travelled for work. Special thanks to Gwen and Lisa for their continued calls which brightened his day.
Thank you to the nurses, Dr. Soufi of the Gimli Hospital and the paramedics who were so compassionate and supportive.
Special thanks to his daughter-in-law, Allison Anderson and her family for making this loss easier and knowing his granddaughters will be forever loved with such amazing family members.
Due to COVID, the family held a viewing on Tuesday, August 11 for immediate family. A memorial in honour of his life will be held on Friday, August 14, 2020, at 2:00 p.m., one mile north of Gimli, near the lake where Oliver was his happiest. Directions will be provided and signs will be posted. If wishing to attend, please email RSVP to:

Social distancing must be respected and we ask all those who attend to bring their own lawn chairs. Masks will be provided if needed.
Honorary pallbearers are Doug McLeod, Dennis Orvis, Erwin McLeod, Trevor Osnach, Ryan Hudson, Andrew Mowat and JR (Alfred) Anderson.
A private family interment will take place at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Gimli Adult Day Program c/o Interlake-Eastern Health Foundation, Box 5000, 120 Easton Drive, Selkirk, MB R1A 2M2. Please ensure you note the Gimli Adult Day Program on the donation.

Condolences may be left on his tribute wall at

Gilbart Funeral Home, Gimli
in care of arrangements.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Aug 12, 2020

Condolences & Memories (2 entries)

  • I worked with Oliver 52 years ago at Burnell Motors in Winnipeg. He was well liked by everyone. He had asked me many times to go to Norway House with him to purchase the Hotel together. We wish to express our sincere condolences to the surviving family and would also like to express our regret in not attending his memorial service due to current health circumstances. - Posted by: William Diduch (Previous Co Worker) on: Aug 13, 2020

  • My heartfelt condolences to all of Oliver’s family and close friends. Oliver to me was the living definition of a true gentleman, I marvelled at his business acumen, foresight and determination to make things happen. The perfect client who asked a lot of questions and provided me with constructive criticism of our business operations, the implementation of which paid back in spades. RIP Oliver, I know you’ve more than earned it. - Posted by: Laurence Russin (Business acquaintance ) on: Aug 12, 2020

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