Obituary of Michael Kirkpatrick
Michael (Mike) Kirkpatrick, born Tuesday, December 31, 1935 in Edinburgh, Scotland, died Tuesday, August 1, 2023 at his home in Ste. Anne, Manitoba at the age of 87 years and 7 months, two weeks after receiving his terminal lung cancer diagnosis. The brief, but devastating illness took him far more quickly than anyone could have anticipated—Mike had so many more plans to make, thoughts to express, friends to entertain, and conversations left in him than cancer would allow. He did love life so very much.
He is survived by his children: Fiona (Mike), Fraser (Helen), and Sheena (Paul) as well as his granddaughter, Ella and grandson, Tony. He is also survived by his former wife Maryanne (Fred, deceased), with whom he forged an affectionate friendship despite being many years divorced. He also leaves to mourn, Shirley Hartley, his close friend of more than 10 years, as well as chums around the world. He is already missed by devoted rescue pup, Simba, his companion over the past 6 years. Prior to Simba, Mike had several dogs in his life, most of which were rescues.
An only child, Michael was predeceased by his parents, Donald MacDonald Kirkpatrick in 1986 and Ella Kirkpatrick (née Blackham) in 1989, as well as by his sweetheart of 22 years, Judy Paler, in 2011.
Mike enjoyed maintaining decades-long friendships and initiating new ones. He met people easily and loved to make them laugh. He was a skilled raconteur, and according to his kids, tossed around far too many cringe-worthy Dad jokes and puns. Mike was extremely well-read and enjoyed a healthy debate on politics, religion and any other subject normally considered off-limits in polite company. Recently, he jokingly referred to having a new career expressing his opinions, having had an impressive three letters to the editor published in the Winnipeg Free Press in 2022. He was also an excellent cook, willing to experiment with new culinary creations, describing his process in great detail to anyone who would listen.
Raised partly in Campbeltown, Scotland for a few short years during the Second World War, he and his parents resided mostly in Edinburgh on St. Fillan’s Terrace in Morningside. Mike attended George Heriot’s School, built in 1628 with a great view of Edinburgh Castle, and remained connected to the school as part of the global network of Herioters. Not long after achieving his Higher Leaving Certificate in 1953, he volunteered for the British Army and joined The Royal Scots where he remained for two years. That began his adult life, filled with many more adventures.
One day in 1956, he saw an ad in the paper for “Gentlemen Adventurers in Hudson’s Bay.” Three weeks later, he was bound for Canada, making his way to northern Saskatchewan as a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company, buying fur pelts from hunters and trappers and learning the ropes of running a store. After several posts in La Ronge and Portage La Loche, Saskatchewan, followed by a manager role in Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba, he decided to join the rival Northern Co-op Trading Services and was sent to run the store in Stanley Mission (also known by its Cree name, Amachewespimawin), roughly 40 miles north of La Ronge, by air.
It was a turning point, for that’s where he met, fell in love, and soon married Maryanne McLeod in 1961, eldest daughter of Cree parents, Josiah and Sarah McLeod. Fiona was born the following year in La Ronge and shortly thereafter the young family moved to Scotland. Their son Fraser was born in Edinburgh in 1963. After living with his parents for nearly two years, Mike found a job researching and developing cheese, building a cheese factory in Lybster, Caithness in the north of Scotland. He later went to work for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority as a contracts officer. In 1967, after five years away from Canada, it was time to return. He quickly received a job offer in Easterville, Manitoba, running the co-op fisheries and store for a year or so. This is where he developed an interest in, and real passion for, economic development in Indigenous communities.
Mike found a position with what was then the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND), as economic development officer in Island Lake, Manitoba and the family spent just over three years on Stevenson Island, across the lake from Garden Hill First Nation. While living there, Maryanne gave birth to their third child, Sheena, in Norway House hospital in 1969.
He received a development role with the Government of the Northwest Territories at Fort McPherson in 1971, and set up the Fort McPherson Tent & Canvas Company which is still in operation today.
The nomadic Kirkpatrick family relocated to The Pas, Manitoba, where Mike took a position as assistant superintendent with DIAND and delivered social services and other programs to First Nations communities in the north. Not long after, Mike was asked to take on a new role to implement a program designed to assist Nations with developing administrative and government systems.
In the mid-1970’s he was a local government advisor in the north Interlake region of Manitoba based out of Ashern, then moved back to Island Lake for a year to take over economic development. The family returned to the Interlake and lived in Camper, about eight miles south of Ashern. Mike worked closely with the newly-established Tribal Council to take over the previous responsibilities of DIAND, eventually working himself out of a job. During that period, he and Maryanne also established a small restaurant, gas station and general store in Camper, running that business for about three years. The family moved to Winnipeg in 1979, while Mike worked with Fisher River, Jackhead and Peguis First Nations, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Following an amicable divorce from Maryanne after 27 years together, Mike met Judy and they lived happily in St. Norbert along the La Salle River. Mike also made a great connection with Judy’s sons, Bryan and Scott (who tragically passed away in 2021). Around this time, he spent his last seven years with DIAND, helping reorganize the Northern Fishery, doing so successfully until his early retirement in 1993.
With Judy, the two spent many happy years boating on his 28-foot Bayliner with friends around Lake of the Woods and Lake Winnipeg. The two travelled to Costa Rica several times, as well as Cuba and several parts of Mexico. Eventually, they found a small property in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico and spent many fun-filled winters down south with a terrific circle of friends, while spending summers in Paradise Village, near Ste. Anne. Following Judy’s death, Mike found a home for himself in Ste. Anne where he was fortunate to have been embraced by a welcoming community and wonderful new chums.
Cremation has taken place. Mike didn’t want the fuss of a memorial service; however, a private gathering will be held soon to reminisce and celebrate his life.
Thanks to Sheldon Schroeder and team at Birchwood Funeral Chapel in Steinbach for the excellent care and service provided. Heartfelt thanks to Southern Health’s Dr. Darren Reimer for the home visit and Jill Plett, RN, Palliative Care Resource Nurse, who formed a lovely bond with Mike in his final days and provided Fiona, Fraser, Sheena and Maryanne with the confidence, advice and the medications needed to ensure his comfort as his final hours approached.
“It’s a beautiful world full of wonders and there are a trillion and more places in our multi-universes to be experienced…” - Mike Kirkpatrick, from his memoir entitled “Before I Forget” published for his children in 2014.