Advanced Search:

Regular Search
❮ Go Back to Listings


Born: Dec 15, 1956

Date of Passing: Feb 08, 2023

Offer Condolences or Memory Make a donation to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation St. Boniface Hospital Foundation

Adjust Text Size: A+ A-


December 15, 1956 - February 8, 2023

With profound sorrow, we announce the death of our beloved husband, father and brother, Peter Zetner. Surrounded by love, Peter left the earth far too soon after a valiant battle with sepsis.
Peter was born in Windsor, ON to Wilfred and Helga Zetner. He grew up in Windsor and the surrounding area, alongside his younger sister, Kristin, attending St. Andrew's and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and graduating from Assumption College Catholic High School. As a boy he loved his rock collection, microscope, astronomy, crystal radio, and pursuing dangerous and sometimes injurious electrical experiments in his basement. Following a lifelong passion for physics, he pursued his B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the University of Windsor while working as a janitor at N & D Supermarket of which he had such fond memories. After a brief stint at the Ford Motor Company in the engineering office, he returned to the university to attain his Ph.D. in the field of atomic physics. During this time, he met and married Ruth BZ Thomson (n. Bauer), the mother of his sons: Mark and Adrian. He completed a three-year post-doctoral term at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, earning him the moniker of "rocket scientist". In 1989, he returned to Canada for a tenure-track position in the Department of Physics at the University of Manitoba.
This job held many rewards and an unexpected blessing. Peter discovered chemistry in physics when he found the love of his life, Patricia Mitchler. They married in 2004. Peter and Patricia spent a quarter century of their lives together: finishing each other's thoughts, doing physics, doting on their beloved Labrador, Noah, enjoying Gimli, watching romance-based reality TV and syrupy Hallmark Christmas movies, travelling the world for physics conferences, Rusalka dance tours and pleasure, spending Friday evenings at Paradise Restaurant, working out, and most importantly, laughing. To say that Peter was a devoted and supportive husband does not do justice to the love and care he provided through all of life's challenges that they faced together.
Peter was a fiercely proud father to his sons. When Mark and Adrian were small, he loved playing with them, reading to them, making up stories and songs, creating dinosaur models, building Lego, and facilitating science projects that ranged from clever to dangerous and ill-advised. In campsites, zoos, and forests, Peter showed his boys the wonder of the natural world could be found equally on starlit beaches beneath towering mountains and in the humble puddles of local parks. In their adult years, nothing made him happier than sharing a laugh in conversation and reciprocating the latest recommendations of books, music, and movies. Peter relished participating in and hearing of their latest (mis)adventures: knowing that they were finding their places in life.
Peter was a dedicated and supportive big brother to Kristin with whom he shared a lifetime of love and friendship.
Peter was a well-respected figure at scientific conferences, presenting finely crafted and enthusiastically delivered research talks. He served as chair of the Division of Atomic and Molecular Physics for the Canadian Association of Physicists. Far from a one-dimensional physicist, Peter was not only brilliant, but outrageously funny and creative, with an artist's soul. He had a passion for photography and won awards for his images. Peter also loved cooking, exercising, reading, and music. After his retirement from the U of M in 2016, he returned to another of his childhood passions, astronomy. He built several spectrohelioscopes and joined the online community of amateur solar astronomers. His posts were expertly written and led to him contributing chapters to a book on solar astronomy. So many projects are left unfinished…
He leaves to cherish his memory, his beloved wife, Patricia; sons, Mark and Adrian, daughter-in-law, Hannah; sister, Kristin Phillips (Neal) of Canton, MI; cousin, Cathy Alix of Kingsville, ON; brother-in-law, Gregory (Sandra); sister-in-law, Mary-Ann; nephew Dan (Lauren) and great-nephew, Cameron of Canton, MI; extended family, friends, and so many more in the local Ukrainian, Canadian physics, and international solar astronomy communities.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Peter's memory to the St. Boniface Hospital or the University of Manitoba's Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Funeral service will be celebrated 10:30 a.m. Saturday, February 18, at St. Joseph's Ukrainian Catholic Church, 250 Jefferson Ave., with Fr. Dmytro Dnistrian, CSsR officiating. Interment to follow in Holy Family Cemetery. A gathering to celebrate Peter's life will follow in the church basement.
We are grateful for having had Peter's loving presence in our lives and will treasure our memories of him forever.

(204) 956 - 2193
Condolences may be sent to

Make a donation to St. Boniface Hospital Foundation

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Feb 11, 2023

Condolences & Memories (7 entries)

  • My husband Valery and I have known Peter for almost two decades. Valery met Peter first when Valery interviewed at the University of Manitoba. Valery and Peter had similar research interests and struck a bond there. Later on, when we attended the Canadian Association of Physicists' Congresses, Peter would attend the congresses with his wife Patricia. We all had interests in teaching physics. As such we became friends and during congresses we talked about life, physics, teaching and everything else. Peter was such an inspirational person - it was always interesting to discuss physics and life with him and at the same time to see how kind and loving he was to his wife - Patricia. He has also been supportive of our Women in Science Group. A few years ago, Peter and Patricia were in Vancouver and they visited us and also visited my Valery's lab at UBC. It was a great opportunity to reconnect. Peter was a kind, knowledgeable and very supportive person. He will be missed. We would like to express our sincere condolences to Patricia and the entire family. Marina and Valery Milner - Posted by: Marina M Milner-Bolotin (Colleague and friend) on: Feb 26, 2023

  • I knew Peter through our shared interest in astronomy and spectroscopy and had many interesting discussions with him over the years. I and many others who shared an interest in the sun and the stars will miss him. I attach a link to some tributes to him from a leading astronomy forum: - Posted by: Douglas Smith (Friend and colleague) on: Feb 18, 2023

  • I still have no words. I last talked with Peter when I ran into him unexpectedly in Halifax in 2018, and he appeared to be in top shape. We were fellow atomic physics colleagues in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the U of M, and we had many pleasant and stimulating discussions during that time. My first teaching at U of M 20 years ago was in a team with Peter. I remember his rigour and enthusiasm, and that shaped my approach. Covid interrupted many things, but I was hoping to maybe meet Peter again at one of the Boston Pizza meetups. Rest in peace, Peter! - Posted by: Gerald Gwinner (Work colleague) on: Feb 17, 2023

  • I was sad to read that Peter had died. Having worked with him for more than 20 years in the Physics Department, I came to regard him as a creative experimentalist and a respected colleague. Regrettably, as sometimes happens following retirement, we lost contact. I would like to offer my sincere condolences to all his family. Gwyn Williams - Posted by: Gwyn Williams (Former colleague) on: Feb 13, 2023

  • Dear Patricia, My most sincere condolences. I have many fond and respect filled memories of Peter. He was a master of public outreach within the Dept of Physics and Astronomy and a pleasant 'just down the hall' colleague. I'm glad to hear that he was enjoying his passions during retirement. I hope your loving memories sustain you during this difficult time. Hugs, Jayanne - Posted by: Jayanne English (colleague) on: Feb 13, 2023

  • My heart felt sympathy to Patricia, Kristin and family. I spoke with Peters cousin Cathy Alix about how Peter was always looking out for us when we were young as his father would set off fireworks for us when we were young children into our teens. Peter will be fondly remembered by Cathy Alix and myself. - Posted by: Theresa Kamrad Batista (Friend) on: Feb 11, 2023

  • Patricia, my sincere condolences on your loss. "To live in the hearts they leave behind" Take care. Sheila Hunter - Posted by: Sheila Hunter (past work mate) on: Feb 11, 2023

❮ Go Back to Listings