In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar


Donald Francis Leyden


Born: 22 Jan 1922


Died: 12 Aug 2020, Winnipeg, Manitoba


LEYDEN, Donald Francis - lived a long, full life. He survived the Second World War, enjoyed 62 years of marriage to his loving wife Rita, and raised four children. During his last 16 months, living at Deer Lodge Centre, he could be found wheeling himself up and down the halls with his great upper body strength. On August 4, Don was diagnosed with pneumonia, and this was the last battle for our beloved husband, dad, grandpa, and uncle. He was surrounded by as much love as we could give him, two at a time, right up until his passing on August 12.


Don is survived by his wife Rita Leyden (née McKinnon) and was a devoted father to Douglas (Mei Zhang) with Carlene (Sean), Jacinta, Katrina, Thomas, Christy and Carolyn; Marnie Loewen (Floyd) with Frances and Derek; Leanne Hiebert (Reg) with Chad, Nelson, and Aiden; and Judy Leyden (Blair Rasmussen). Also mourning this beautiful man are many nieces and nephews on the Leyden and McKinnon sides. He is preceded in death by his siblings, Alphonsus Leyden, Roma Alexander, and Onie Clubb.


Don Leyden was born in 1922 to Mary Jane McCarthy and George Patrick Leyden. Raised in the Catholic faith, Don (or Donald as some called him) attended St. Paul's High School where the influence of the Jesuit priests resonated strongly. He studied at the University of Manitoba where he earned a Bachelor of Arts (1943) and a Master of Social Work (1962). Don's studies were interrupted by the Second World War during which he served in the Royal Canadian Navy on the corvette HMCS Camrose protecting the convoys and working in communications. After the war, he began his career as a social worker in Manitoba's Juvenile and Family Court. In 1967 he moved to the federal government as a manager in the Department of Manpower and Immigration, retiring in 1987. Early in his retirement he was a management consultant, working with numerous mining companies in the north. Whoever he dealt with, in business or in life, a guiding belief shone through: "People are more important than things."


Sports were important to Donald and he was good at them. He frequently appeared in the sports pages of Manitoba newspapers. When he returned to Canada after the war, "the Red Menace" (at a height of 5'8") played semi-pro basketball for the Winnipeg Paulins and the Varsity Grads; he also won too many tennis and other sports titles to mention here. He was a true renaissance man and could run circles around the tall players on a basketball court, write and act in plays, coach womens basketball, tell wonderful stories, dance a mean foxtrot, and as far as his family was concerned, he could do just about anything! Music and old movies brought him great joy, and in his later years, his toes would still tap along even when he could no longer dance.


Don Leyden had a rare patience and perseverance. He was a fighter, but not in the literal sense. If his family needed defending, he was there, advocating fairness, always ready to talk things out peacefully. He had a quiet confidence. He was a small, strong man making a huge impression wherever he went. The war stories he chose to tell often had a humorous slant and focused on shore leave either in Canada or in England. As is common to his generation, the battles in the North Atlantic and what he witnessed were rarely mentioned.


Since April 2019, Don has been well loved and cared for at Deer Lodge. We are very grateful to the doctors, nurses, health care aides, and all the staff who cleaned, did laundry, served meals, played balloon volleyball with him, and made him smile. You are too numerous to mention; your work is very important and much appreciated.


In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Cerebral Palsy Association of Manitoba, Deer Lodge Centre, or any charity of your choice.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a small private funeral will take place at Chapel Lawn Funeral Home.


One mystery remains, however. It is one that Don takes to his grave: "Did he take Deanna Durbin to the circus in 1938 or not?" One day we'll find out when we meet again. Thanks, sailor, and so long. We will miss you dearly. (Winnipeg Free Press 22 Aug 2020)


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