With wonderful memories and sad, but full hearts, we solemnly announce the passing of Don Pattie on June 3rd, 2021 at the age of 87 after a battle with cancer. He is lovingly remembered by his wife Elke, his son Christopher and his future daughter-in-law Mary and grandson Diego along with his favorite Laplander Baxter. He will also be remembered by his son Kevin, Dung and the Tran family, his sister Karen and his nieces Sharilyn, Annie, Kylie and their families and sisters-in-law Ute and Monica, the Braaten family as well as other family members in the US, Canada and Germany. Moreover, dear friends and neighbors will remember Don fondly. His daughter Cheris and his Mother Lulu also had a profound impact on his life although they passed away years ago.
Don was born in Volt, MT on November 22nd, 1933. He grew up on the farm near Wolf Point and began school at the age of 3 where his mother Lulu taught in a 1-room schoolhouse. There were many summer fun times spent in Montana with his grandpa and his cousin Ardith. His love of rocks started at an early age when he and his sister Karen would find agates on the farm and kept the precious ones. He lived and worked in different states and the lure of Arctic research work took him from the Smithsonian to Kansas and eventually encouraged his move to Canada.
Don’s favorite responses to the standard question, “How are you doing?” was never the standard “fine” or “good”, instead it was either, “Always the same” or “If I felt as good as you look, I’d take an ad out in the newspaper.” These unique responses could only come from such an amazing and unique man. He was an educator and student, happy to tell a story with an unexpected twist or ask an extremely intelligent question. Don’s knowledge of wildlife, as well as the world in general, was shared with family, friends, students, and strangers alike. Prospecting for ammolite and agates, so he could share his discoveries with friends was especially joyous. The stories of stones, glaciers, penguins, hunting, fishing or one of the many places he had journeyed to was often accompanied by a glass of homemade wine whenever anyone visited the Pattie/Siebels’ abode. The winter trips to Arizona were a fun reprieve from the harsh winters he had grown up, and worked in in his earlier years. After arriving there, he always filled the birdfeeders to ensure the finches, hummingbirds, cardinals, and roadrunners could stop by for a snack. He was one of the few people who could tell you what kind of hummingbird you were looking at from just a quick glance (or any bird for that matter). On trips up to Madera Canyon he would always point out his favorite rock, that was the size of a large house, near Cora’s Gift Shop. His adventurous soul took his family with him to explore many parts of the desert, even parts that the Border Patrol thought we were crazy to be driving in with the little Ford Fusion.
During his career Don spent many years doing research on Devon Island and training Inuit people to become Forest Rangers on Herschel Island. He designed many Aboriginal programs at NAIT before he retired from the Biological Sciences Department and continued his work even after his official retirement. In addition to his work with members of the Aboriginal community, he also developed a Zookeeper program. He continued to grade papers until the young age of 85. Don wrote multiple books including Mammals of Alberta, Mammals of the Rocky Mountains, Whales – British Columbia and Alaska and Mammals of British Columbia.
Don always had something new on the go! During his vacation time from teaching, he would work as a Naturalist aboard various ships to the Arctic and Antarctic. On his journeys he was always meeting people and learning along the way. He was always proud of the tip he once received which was a Swiss army knife that even MacGyver would have envied. He took his wife, Elke along on one of the trips, and they got to share the magic of Greenland together.
Apart from the stories, the learning and the teaching Don had many hobbies. He loved to go hunting with his friend Bob and fishing with his son Christopher. Another passion was working with his beehives and gardening and watching plants grow. He loved the water and took one last trip with Christopher in Florida even though they were skunked. Reading books and continuing to learn was something he did until his last days, along with playing cribbage with his family.
Many thanks to Dr. Bidniak for making it possible for Don to meet his future daughter in law, grandson and future family as well as spending time with Christopher in his last year of life. We so appreciate the kindness shown to Don and us by family friends and neighbors during his last year.
Don was a great father and loving husband and an amazing family man! Everyone who was ever touched by you, will miss you Papa Bear.
A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date once all Covid restrictions are lifted in Canada and the United States.