Cover photo for Don Penner's Obituary
Don Penner Profile Photo

Don Penner

May 30, 1937 — May 10, 2023

Altona, MB

Don Penner

Don Penner died peacefully, with family at his side, on May 10th, 2023 at Eastview Place in Altona. He is survived by three children—Darren, Rick and Tannis (Keith); four grandchildren—Davin (Krystal), Tara (Brian), Adeleine and Elinore; and four great-grandchildren—Linnea, Rylan, Braden and Riley. He was predeceased by his parents; his five siblings—John, Katie, Art, Edwin and Walter; his daughter-in-law Theresa; and Chris, his beloved wife of over 60 years. A private family service was held with interment at the Altona Cemetery on May 13th.

Dad was born on May 30, 1937 to parents John (J.P.) and Katherina Penner in Winkler. He grew up on the farm and attended Grades 1-8 in the Weidenfeld School District, and Grade 9 in the Schoenau School district. In 1955 Dad moved to Altona with his parents, and he worked for his father delivering milk door-to-door for two years. He was baptized upon confession of his faith at the Bergthaler Church in 1958, and married Mom there on September 27th, 1959, moving into a house they had built on 7th Avenue. Dad worked for Red River Mutual Insurance for 6 months before beginning what would be a 37-year career at D.W. Friesen & Sons. At Friesens he worked until retirement in various roles, heard whistling all the while and rarely seen in his office.  After his tenure at Friesens, Dad obtained his real-estate license and became a part-owner at Border Real Estate, enjoying a “career change”, selling real estate for a number of years. For a time Dad became involved in managing a 55-Plus housing complex in Altona known as Buffalo Apartments, retiring fully in 2006. Throughout his career Dad also had his own business selling promotional products. Don Penner Advertising kept him busy, gave him many novel ideas for Christmas presents, and provided each of us with a lifetime supply of sample pens.

Dad has always been active in the community in many ways. He was a member of the Altona Volunteer Fire Department for 17 years, and served on the Curling and Golf Club Executive. He played baseball in Altona in his late teens and early twenties. He enjoyed many golfing and fishing trips with various groups of colleagues and friends, including the infamous “Golden Boys”. Poker nights were highlights of his week, and with all of these activities the socializing was as or more important than the activities themselves.

Dad travelled a lot for work, mainly through Western Canada but also beyond, most exotically to Germany and Barbados. Family holidays, especially to visit relatives in Alberta and B.C., were a regular part of our upbringing; we also memorably vacationed in Florida and on the East Coast. A willing traveller, Dad nevertheless was always eager to return to the comforts of home—in particular, to Mom’s cooking.

Music was an integral part of Dad’s life. He could play the piano and guitar by ear, and enjoyed playing and singing together with his brothers at many Penner gatherings, and with Tannis at home.  While never learning to read music, Dad could follow the notes up and down well and sang the bass part in hymns at church. He drew strength and comfort from country-gospel songs, hymns, and worship choruses which he played repeatedly on YouTube. Countless hours were spent pacing the length of the basement, listening to his favourite tunes.

Dad loved relaxing in the garage (also known as “Don’s Den”), where he listened to CFAM and watched the world go by, waving to all (and noting those who did not wave back). He kept the garage floor sparkling and had a fridge full of cold beverages, so pleased when friends and family stopped by to join him for a visit. He heartily greeted guests and loved to entertain, especially at his annual Christmas party for colleagues and friends.

Dad was known for being welcoming, friendly, and enthusiastic; for his laugh and his desire to make you laugh; for his generosity; for being the hero of his own stories; and for repeating those stories frequently. Ultimately, he was known for his love of life and of family. He seemed most content when we were all at home together, and when he was seated at the head of the table together with us.

We continued to know Dad’s love and care in many significant ways even after a brain injury changed his life dramatically in 2014, necessitating full-time care for eight and a half years. This has been difficult, especially through Mom’s decline and passing, and Covid restrictions, which limited our ability to be together as a family. But we have many happy memories from this stage, including celebrating Dad’s 80th birthday party at Eastview, singing together, watching curling, playing Bingo, Crokinole and Uno, eating popcorn twists, visiting outdoors, doing crossword puzzles, having the best seats at the Sunflower Festival Parade, and enjoying meaningful visits with friends, residents and staff. For a long while Dad continued to recognize family and friends, calling them by name and welcoming them with open arms. The twinkle in his eye would return from time to time, and when he was reminded of his former antics, he would smile and say, “That sounds about right.”

Dad worked hard to provide for his family. He was proud of all he was able to accomplish with a Grade 9 education. As a successful businessman, Dad enjoyed owning a comfortable home, and a big, expensive car with a trunk spacious enough for his golf clubs and the golf clubs of his friends. Mom and Dad gave generously to various organizations in the church and in the community. We siblings and our own children continue to benefit from their love for us and concern for our futures. We are eternally grateful.

And we are grateful to many others: to the staff at Eastview Place, especially the Rosewood family and activity staff; to Lisa Giesbrecht, Maria Nickel, Ray & Marilyn Hamm, the palliative care volunteers, the Bergthaler church pastors, and all who pitched in to help Dad and us through this transition in his last week and on his last day; to Byron Loeppky, and all of the friends and colleagues who visited Dad over the years; to Trevor at Wiebe Funeral Home for looking after Mom’s and Dad’s funeral arrangements with proficiency, thoughtfulness and care; and to all who reached out to Mom and Dad and to us in various ways, now in our grief and throughout our lives. We raise our glasses to you in gratitude, and to our Dad, whom we miss dearly and remember with love and thankfulness.

A service to celebrate the lives of both Chris and Don will be held on Saturday, June 24, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. at the Altona Bergthaler Church.  

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Don Penner, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Starts at 3:00 pm (Central time)

Bergthaler Mennonite Church, Altona

117 2nd St NW, Altona, MB R0G 0B1

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