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Memorable Manitobans: Donalda Eileen “Dona” Brekelmans (1924-2016)

Veteran, seamstress.

Born at Winnipeg on 29 December 1924, daughter of Joseph and Mary O’Connor, she grew up on McMillan Avenue and attended St. Ignatius School and St. Mary’s Academy. During the Second World War, she served at Halifax, Nova Scotia, signaling ships safely to harbour.

After the war, she attended university where she met Tony Brekelmans, whom she married on 1 July 1948. Together, they had eight children. While her children were young, she worked at various jobs, including English smocking. Princess Caroline of Monaco, an infant Justin Trudeau, and John and Caroline Kennedy all wore dresses and clothing she smocked. Once her children were of school age, she took a comptometer (one of the first key-driven mechanical calculators) operators course and got a job first with T. Eaton Co. and then at N. M. Paterson and Sons where she worked until her retirement at age 72. She was also active in her community, volunteering for the Navy League Wrenettes and the CWOA. At the Waverley Retirement Community where she lived until her husband’s death, and at the Canoe Club where she lived for the remainder of her life, she embroidered nameplates for all residents in need of a walker, and routinely visited those who were ill or hospitalized.

She died at her Winnipeg home on 10 March 2016.

Sources:

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 19 March 2016.

This page was prepared by Mallory Light.

Page revised: 10 February 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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