September 22, 1941 – September 23, 2022, 81 years old
A gentle man, determined to work hard, learn constantly and beat cancer, is now at peace, leaving us with the best memories and heavy hearts. Born in Lashburn, Saskatchewan in harvest season, where annually the neighbours pulled together to keep the threshing machines going and the workers fed with 3 daily meals in the fields. That same ethos enabled Don to serve his community throughout his life.
Don was the youngest of three boys of Beatrice (Bradley) Atkinson and John (Jack) Atkinson (both predeceased). With his older brothers Ken, of Airdrie, Alberta and Richard (Dick) (predeceased) he learned important life skills: how to drive a tractor and how to build and fix anything. Don’s childhood on a Saskatchewan family farm generated a lifetime of stories of skating on the frozen sloughs, catching gophers, roping calves with his lasso and daily rides on his horse or cutter to the Rereshill school.
After graduating from the Lashburn high school, Don rode the rails east to study veterinary medicine in Guelph, where he met his wife of 57 years, Diane. Don graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1964, married Diane in 1965 and joined the practice of the Kirkton Veterinary Clinic, where he practiced veterinary medicine for 40 years until his retirement in 2005 (except for a 2 year term working for the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory in Regina). His career was one of thousands of treatments of milk fevers, 2 am farrowings and calvings, millions of miles of driving from farm to farm in his pickup truck, and sometimes on a snowmobile when the road was closed, and always without being able to ask his patients “How are you feeling?” Despite long working hours, he also nurtured a thirst for knowledge, including teaching himself Russian, tinkering with computers, reading a book on theology or ready to debate current events. After his retirement, Don became a lay minister and was active with the United Church and Optimists and he and Diane maintained a bountiful garden. Throughout his life, his Christian faith sustained him and despite being tone deaf with a vocal range of a single note, he was a devoted adherent to John Wesley’s advice of “Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.”
Diane cared for him at home as the cancer progressed, allowing him to die at home in Kirkton. He will be forever loved by his daughters, Kathryn (Tom Schwarzer) of Portland, Oregon, Darlene (Murray Shirley) of Kelowna, British Columbia and Karen (Matt Zischka) of Toronto, Ontario and his most treasured grandchildren Elise, Fiona, Max and Sebastian. Don leaves many cousins, nieces and nephews in western Canada.
We thank the incredible effort of the health care term supporting Don in his fight with cancer and in palliative care, with special thanks to Joanne and Joan.
Cremation has taken place. A celebration of life will be held on October 12, 2022 at the KIRKTON-WOODHAM COMMUNITY CENTRE, 70497 Rd 164, Kirkton, at 2 pm with a small reception to follow.
In Don’s memory, please give someone a hug, rub behind the ears of your favourite animal, show your neighbours and community many acts of kindness and try to learn something new every day. In lieu of flowers, you may consider a gift to