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DONALD BJORNSON (DON)
Born: Apr 19, 1933
Date of Passing: Jan 21, 2023Send Flowers to the Family Offer Condolences or Memory
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 1952-1953 he attended Normal School. He taught for seven years - Lowland, Arborg, Cummings, Waldersee (three years) and Geysir. In 1959-1960 he worked as a mine labourer 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 family's 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 lifetime membership; member for four 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 five (almost six) great-grandchildren - son Don (Tanys), Spencer (Tristen), Evan, Sydney (Brandon); daughter Cindy (Randy), Angela (Andy), Oliver and Owen, Alicia (Chad); son Peter (Joanne), Kieran, Dane, Iris; daughter Judy (Derek), Cole (Rebecca), Dylan (Melissa), Lane and 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 and 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 a link on Don's obituary at Gilbart's website.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Gimli Lutheran Church, Box 118, Gimli, MB R0C 1B0 or a charity of your choice.
Rest in Peace - until we meet again - Goda nott elskan
Condolences may be left on his tribute wall at www.gilbartfuneralhome.com
Gilbart Funeral Home, Gimli in care of arrangements.
As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Jan 28, 2023
Condolences & Memories (12 entries)
I just want to convey my most sincere condolences about the passing of Donald. When we were young, he and his large family were our next door neighbors in Vestri. They were wonderful neighbors. Don, in particular, always looked out for me, at Vestri school (he was 4 years older), and made sure that I did not get into too much trouble! In recent years, I always enjoyed our meetings which occurred primarily when I returned to Manitoba for the Icelandic Festivals. I always thought of him as a genuine and wise statesman, and a great family person. I also appreciated his quiet sense of humor. His family, and the community, at large, can take genuine pride in the very positive memory of a truly genuine person. Oskar Sigvaldason - Posted by: Oskar Sigvaldason (Friend) on: Feb 04, 2023
Dear Bjornson family. It is with deepest sympathy that we acknowledge Don's passing. Don was a great Secretary Treasurer for Evergreen School Division and a great person to be associated with during my tenure as Principal and Joan's as School Secretary. He was a genuine gentleman and never a harsh word for anyone. One of a kind person. RIP DON. - Posted by: Morris and Joan Kustiak (Work associates) on: Feb 04, 2023
I am truly saddened, learning of Don’s passing. My most heartfelt condolences to Hedy and family. I know Don will be sorely missed by all of his family, friends and the Community at large that he served so diligently with style, grace, and a friendly smile. Truly a Gentleman’s Gentleman! I admire him greatly, as I do his children, with whom I have had some personal and business interaction with over the years. May Don’s Soul rest peacefully in the arms of God and may the fond memories of his life well spent, gently ease your aching hearts. God Bless! - Posted by: Laurence Russin (Acquaintance ) on: Feb 04, 2023
Our sincere condolences to Hedy and family. Don Sr. was a kind and thoughtful man and the obituary captures him beautifully. Our son, Robbie received one of Don's woodworking projects as a gift some 25 years ago - a beautiful wooden airplane that still has a proud place on his bookshelf. We were always happy to have a visit at the mini-donut trailer during the Festival where Don and Hedy were hard at work for the Kiwanis Club. He will be missed. - Posted by: Keith and Marla Boyd (Family friends) on: Feb 02, 2023
I send my most heartfelt condolences to Hedy and the Bjornson family at this most difficult time of profound loss, grieving and adjustments. I always enjoyed seeing Donald and Hedy at either Jack & Sveinbjorg's Christmas gatherings, auntie Runa & uncle Frank's, a Bjornson wedding, or Islendingadagurinn. Both were always smiling and both were always kind. I will always remember the kindness shown to my family when my dad died and Hedy & Donald invited mom (Alda) & I into their home to help us pick out the funeral hymns. This was so much more personal, heartfelt and appreciated than if we had done the same with a funeral director. My dad (John) knew each of the Bjornson brothers well and hunted with some of them. Since Jack also lived in Selkirk we saw him and Sveinbjorg often. I was heartbroken when I was told that our uncle Jack wasn't really a blood uncle on our family tree! It was at his home that we were invited to family gatherings as if we too belonged on the Bjornson tree.... Likely my fondest memory of Donald is the last time I saw him in August 2019 while passing through Gimli on my way back to Ottawa after having visited mom in Cochrane AB. I didn't have an address or phone number but was hopeful I might meet Hedy and him at church Sunday morning. Sure enough they were there and after service so kindly invited my sister Crystal and I to join them for coffee. It felt like receiving a huge hug from my dad and all the Bjornsons who are no longer with us. The last living Bjornson brother, in my mind Donald held that connection for me and it was so heartwarming to be with both he and Hedy again even though it was a brief visit. When I left Gimli my heart was full. I just read the beautifully written obituary for Donald. His legacy is far larger than just his family as he was so involved with community organizations and has touched the hearts and lives of many. He lived his life well. May his spirit rest peacefully and may the fond memories gently ease your aching hearts. Each time I go back home to visit the circle of that generation is a little bit smaller and each person is missed. From my family to yours I send so much love. I'm sorry I won't be able to attend in person but appreciate that the service will be streamed and I will be able to attend virtually. Hugs to Hedy and each of the Bjornson cousins. Sincerely, Heather Johnson. - Posted by: Heather Johnson (Friend ) on: Jan 31, 2023
Our sincere condolences to Hedy and all Don's family at this very difficult time. Don did so much to make the world a better place and gave so much to the community. His kindness and touched so many people and with his passing we have lost a true friend and gentleman. - Posted by: Zenon Gawron and Irene Pohoréçka (Friends) on: Jan 31, 2023
Please accept our sincere condolences. Don was a very kind and friendly man. Our thoughts and prayers to the family. RIP🙏🙏 - Posted by: Jim & Gloria Yaremkiewich (Friends) on: Jan 30, 2023
Dear Hedy and family, We are very deeply shocked and saddened to hear you have lost your wonderful husband, Afi and lang Afi. Don was a true gentleman who lived his life with class, dignity and affection. Vic learned so much from him through their years working together in the Evergreen office. Don always had a smile, a joke or story to tell whenever we met him. Fiercely proud of his family, he was also genuinely interested in hearing about ours. We are very sorry to have to miss his celebration of life but will watch the livestream and celebrate this remarkable life with everyone. Much love and many prayers for you all. Deb and Vic ❤️ - Posted by: Deb and Vic Thordarson (Friends) on: Jan 29, 2023
with deepest sympathies to Hedy and family. - Posted by: Margo Matwychuk (friend) on: Jan 28, 2023
My deepest sympathy to Don’s wonderful wife, Hedy, & all his children, grandchildren & great grandchildren. Don was a wonderful, sincere man. When Bob & I moved to Sandy Hook in 1999 Don was one of the first people to greet us at church with his winning smile & warm welcome. He was a true gentleman & will be greatly missed. - Posted by: Roberta Horner (Friend) on: Jan 28, 2023
Please accept my heartfelt sympathies, Hedy and Peter. Don was truly an amazing person. It is one thing to be meticulous and super-organised. It's another to be warm, genial, and unfailingly gracious. All too often, the two sets of attributes are mutually exclusive. That wasn't the case with Don. His genius lay in being able to combine the two in a way that certainly justifies the well-deserved accolades that he received in his lifetime. He ran his race superbly. We benefited from his time on this mortal coil, and we will miss him now that he has embarked on his next journey, - Posted by: Keith Bricknell (Friend) on: Jan 28, 2023
Hedy and family, I am so saddened to hear of Don's passing. I remember him so well for his quiet demeanor, his friendly smile, and his warm hugs. The world has lost another true gentleman. My heart is with you during this very sad time, and I pray for you, especially Hedy, for God's strength and love. I will remember Don with fondness. - Posted by: Eva M Haddad (Friend) on: Jan 28, 2023
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