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Memorable Manitobans: Vern Hildahl (1917-2005)

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Scientist, community activist.

Born on a farm near Estevan, Saskatchewan on 4 November 1917, he worked on the farm and in coal mines during the Depression. During the Second World War, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force and taught Meteorology to navigators at training facilities in Manitoba.

In 1945, he joined the Canadian Forestry Service and became a forest entomologist. Despite having no formal university training, he conducted research and wrote scientific papers on Forest Tent Caterpillar, Cankerous and Spruce Bud Worm infestations. It was his contribution to the understanding of Dutch elm disease that earned him international recognition. He convinced local authorities to commit funds to his program to control the disease by an aggressive sanitation program which involved pruning dead branches from trees, removing dead trees and properly disposing of elm wood. He published 38 scientific papers and wrote the book Heritage Trees of Manitoba with his friend Martin Benum.

He was named the Fort Garry Citizen of the Year, received the Dr. Alan Beaven Care Award, and was inducted into the Order of Manitoba (2005) for his efforts in saving Manitoba’s elm trees from Dutch elm disease. He coached and managed many community sports teams, founded the Harrow Recreation Centre, and served as the first President of the Harrow School Parents Association.

He died at Winnipeg on 19 August 2005.


Official Register of the Order of Manitoba.

“He fought for elms and won,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 August 2005, page A6.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 23 August 2005, page 27.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 26 September 2014

Memorable Manitobans

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