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Born: Jun 15, 1921

Date of Passing: Oct 19, 2021

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Donna Friesen (born Donna Fay Cruickshank) entered this world in Winnipeg on June 15, 1921 and left it on October 19, 2021.
Donna wanted to be a doctor but her family could not afford the cost. She practiced instead as a nurse, graduating in 1944, and saving her pennies to put herself through medical school. In 1950 she graduated from Faculty of Medicine at the University of Manitoba as the Lady Stick, part of the largest cohort of women in medicine. She practiced as a doctor from 1950 to 1987, beginning with the rehabilitation of patients suffering from polio. From 1961 she was a family physician at the Manitoba Clinic. She was an early feminist and featured on lists of physicians who supported a woman's right to choose.
She married Professor W. J. Patton on May 13, 1950 at the height of the famous flood and had three sons from a difficult first marriage, Andy, Matthew, and Jay. Her youngest son Jay became a bush pilot, and died when flying to a medical mission, a wound that never healed. On December 30, 1984 she was remarried, to Dr. William Friesen. Her expanded family now included daughters, Ida-Marie and Betty. With her new husband, she travelled extensively in retirement: visits to the ancient churches at Lake Van and a Nordic church carved from red rock remained vivid. She lived her later years at The Wellington where she was an active member of the community. In 2009 she received a Manitoba Active Living award.
Music and art were especially important to her. She sang in every choir she could, and in her 40s, took up the cello, which "touched her soul." Later she took up painting and drawing: at 97 she was drawing a tree encased in snow. Accompanied by cats until the last years of her life, she never forgot Truman, her beloved last Siamese. She celebrated her 100th birthday in style and wanted it known how much she loved the video messages sent by family from across the country. She had many friends and loved the world's rich variety. "Wherever I was at that time, I took a piece of it. That's who I am. I'm like a patchwork quilt. Each piece was something important to me." Shortly after her 100th birthday, she laughed and said, "I'm like that Apple on your computer, I took a bite of every experience I ever had."
Her husband, brother Earl and sisters, Vida and Beth died before her. She is remembered and mourned by her sons, Andy and Matthew, stepdaughters, Betty and Ida-Marie, daughter-in-law Janice and son-in-law Kevin, her grandchildren, Kate, Declan, Connor and their spouses and children, her nephew David and niece Margie, and many relatives and friends. Two younger friends, Karen Toole and Esther Klassen, were special: they revealed to her that close new friendships could blossom so late in life.
This obituary was written together with Donna: her one regret was not to include "everything she had forgotten."
A private celebration of her life will take place.


As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Oct 23, 2021

Condolences & Memories (7 entries)

  • We were very sorry to learn that Donna had passed away. We have known Donna for many years through Dr Marie Storrie. We always enjoyed Donna's company and are sorry to have lost contact over the past few years. Life does get in the way sometimes. We will cherish our memories of times with Donna. We send special thoughts and prayers to all the family. Another star is shining brightly in our skies. - Posted by: Lois and Ed Storrie (friend) on: Nov 21, 2021

  • How sad it was to learn that Donna has passed away. I enjoyed getting to know her when my Mom, Alma, lived at the Wellington. In the early 1940s they were both nursing students training at the Winnipeg General Hospital. Many wonderful friendships were made while living in residence and kept over the years. Donna and my Mom lived on the same floor so we had many visits in the hallway or over coffee downstairs. She was such an accomplished woman. I was so glad to know she enjoyed celebrating her 100th birthday and heard from so many. No doubt the funeral service she planned reflected who she was and was a lovely celebration of her life. Unfortunately, I didn't know about her service until it was over. I would liked to have attended and paid my respects. It was my pleasure to know Donna. With sympathy, Linda Stuesser - Posted by: Linda Stuesser (Friend) on: Nov 10, 2021

  • I know Donna through her good friend Agnes Comack - who Donna shared her Nursing background as well as her retirement years in the Wellington in Winnipeg. Donna's obituary was such a wonderful tribute to a woman who had accomplished so much. As we prepare our 2021 Alumni Newsletter, we would like to pay tribute to Donna - with your permission please. Our condolences on the passing of this amazing woman. The WGH/HSC Nursing Alumni Association - Posted by: Kathy Hamelin (Winnipeg General Hospital Nursing Alumni member ) on: Nov 08, 2021

  • On behalf of the WGH/HSC we extend our sincerest condolences to Donna's family and friends. Donna's good friend and nursing classmate, Agnes Comack, kept the alumni informed of Donna's accomplishments and her wonderful zest for life. We are proud to have had Donna as one of our nursing sisters. - Posted by: MARIAN Ulyatt (WGH/HSC Nursing Alumni Friendship Convenor) on: Nov 06, 2021

  • I met Dr. Friesen when my Mom, Jo McCrea, lived at The Wellington. They connected almost immediately. Several years after my Mother's death, I went to work at The Wellington and saw Dr. Friesen every day. I was so privileged to work there and felt a part of Dr. Friesen's home. I completely enjoyed her 100th birthday celebration and looking at all the photos with her. It was from that day the picture above was taken. I recently transferred to another of our retirement communities and just before I left she told me she hoped I'd be happy in my new position and how much she missed my Mom. I told her the hard part of moving was that it was my connection to her and a few others who were almost like Aunt's to me and my thread to my Mom wouldn't be in my daily life. I told her I would visit. I'm glad we had that last heart to heart. It was only a few weeks ago. My condolences to her family and friends. She was a remarkable woman. - Posted by: Susanne McCrea (Friend) on: Oct 27, 2021

  • For many years I shared Monday mornings with Donna singing with the Senior Citizens Choir of Winnipeg. We all enjoyed the choir and performing at personal care homes throughout the city. Donna's wonderful sense of humour, her wit, and of course her voice were so missed when she decided to "retire" from the choir. Subsequent visits to the Wellington always meant a visit with Donna. I felt myself privileged to know her. She was a mentor and good friend to all. - Posted by: Barbara Green (friend) on: Oct 23, 2021

  • I did not know Ms Friesen but she is an excellent example of a life well lived. Amazing woman. - Posted by: Ernest Babynec () on: Oct 23, 2021

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