Alex Donald Beyak passed away with family by his side in the La Verendrye Hospital—Riverside Health Care on June 2, 2022.
He was born in Rainy River, Ontario, on September 12, 1948. He was predeceased by his parents, Alex Beyak and Verna Viola Beyak (nee Moen); a stillborn son Allan; his brother Mark Olaf; his brothers-in-law Charles Edward Gate, Gary Cecil Gate, Frederick Robert Gate, Keith Kent Gate, Joseph Carswell and Del Jenson; and his sisters-in-law Anna Marguerite Carswell (Gate) and Doris Melvina McNally (Gate).
He is survived by his wife Elaine (nee Gate); sons Timothy (Trina Kuorikoski) and Mitchell (Kristina Mitchell); his grandchildren Sebastian, Jerzey, Dominic, Grayson, Lilia, and Sapphira; his brother Stephen Leigh (Shannon Nordin); his sisters Jo Beyak and Chris Beyak; his sisters/brothers-in-law Dorothy Gate, Dixie Stephens, Larry and Diane Gate, Bill and Caroline Gate, Joyce Jensen, Nancy Gate, Alfred and Sheila Gate, and Donna Gate; his aunts/uncle Margaret Beyak, Millie Beyak, Sylvia Beyak, and Lloyd and Patsy Moen; as well as beloved cousins and many nieces and nephews.
Don was the first child born to Alex and Verna Beyak, in the third year that followed the end of the Second World War. This was a time of post-war economic growth and Don and his siblings were born into the demographic phenomenon known as the Baby Boom — the Beyaks experienced their own mini-boom. In 1950, a new baby, Stephen, was born, and in Atikokan, the family lived with relatives for a time and then moved into their new home on Maple Street. The arrival of more siblings and additional moves carried through the next decade and a half — 1955 marked the birth of his sister Joanne and a move to the house on 8th Street in Rainy River. In 1957, the family moved to the Grant farm on River Road, followed by the birth of a second sister, Christine, in 1959. In 1965, his little brother Mark, was born. Don and Mark bookended the Boomer generation and the line of Beyak siblings. The last move for the family occurred in 1967, after Alex and Verna purchased the Pentney home and 60 acres of property on River Road.
For a time, Don attended Rainy River High School, but the wanderlust of youth prompted a move to Winnipeg. There he lived with his auntie Margaret and uncle Boris and their kids in Windsor Park and started work at the local Coca-Cola factory. It is important to state that Don and uncle Boris shared a special life-long relationship that was very significant to each man.
In 1968, Don met Elaine Annette Gate, a young woman from Bergland, Ontario. Before long, the two were smitten with each other, and a three-year dating period was soon underway. This would become the most significant relationship in Don’s life. Not only did they promise to be together forever, but they also promised that neither would let the other die alone. Bravely, Elaine did just that and stayed with Don until the very instance of his passing.
On August 12, 1971, they married at Rainy River, Ontario, the town where they would make their home and raise their family. Together they moved into the little pink house on 6th Street. Their first baby was born in the summer of 1973. Don chose his name to be Timothy Shawn. In the following years, Don and Elaine decided to build a house. A second son, Mitchell Jay, was born in 1977 — Elaine chose the name for this baby. Mitchell was a best friend for Don both as a little boy and as a grown man. Mitch and Don spoke every day on the phone during Mitch’s drive home from work. In 1979, the family moved to the 5th Street house; a home Don designed and built from the ground up. This house was the family home where Don, Elaine, and the boys would celebrate many birthdays and holidays with immediate and extended family.
In 1967, Don hired on the Canadian National Railway and retired twenty-nine years and six months later in 1996. His occupation was long and arduous at times. He complained a great deal about the work but never shirked from a provider’s responsibilities — a dedicated provider to his family. He provided income, stability, guidance, and most importantly: love.
Don, Elaine, and their boys spent many summers fishing at the lake, cottaging, swimming on the beaches, boating, and searching for treasures, unique pebbles and stones, arrowheads, fishhooks, and other flotsam and jetsam. They also had time away on travels, although Don would have rather stayed home to seek rest and relaxation in his own vicinity. He travelled with work but enjoyed the vacations that took him to Manitoba, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, and Utah. He and Elaine loved their trips to Minnesota to see Mitch, Kristina, Jerzey, Grayson, and Lillia and had a wonderful Christmas together in 2019. At times, the past two years were tough for him as opportunities to see his sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren in person were few. Like many people, this fact was a bitter matter for us all. But distance and isolation did not diminish his love for those away from him nor their love for him. In recent months, Tim, Trina, Sebastian, Dominic, and Sapphira were blessed with in-person visits with Don and Elaine, and time at Gimli Beach, and a final visit he and Elaine made to Winnipeg during this past Spring Break.
Don maintained lifelong friendships with many people. He was someone his friends could count on to help, build, fix, tinker, problem-solve, modify, innovate, pull, push, or haul. He was charitable and generous and quietly supported others or donated to organizations with both money and time. There were many people and causes that meant something to him in both his heart and his mind. Rarely did Don refuse to help a person who needed assistance or his expertise. In the days following his passing, many people commented on how kind he was, how much he helped them, and how much he meant to them. To many, Don was a friend, caretaker, or ‘wise-guy.’ He supported others in their self-actualizations too.
Don loved nature and the outdoors. He was an avid fisherman, huntsman, and naturalist. He always had some fishing or hunting trip in mind, in planning stages, or on the go. During these times, he bonded with his friends, laughed with his cousins and nephews, and schooled others about the best places and ways to catch fish or hunt game. His trips to Lake of the Woods to see the Zebell and Vollrath families were favourite times. As were the trips to Buena Vista and Nick’s cabin with the Beyak cousins and nephews. There were many-a fishing story that came to life from those trips. It is quite plausible that every single story was true!
A quotation attributed to J.C. Watts states, “It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go.” Last Thursday afternoon, June 2, 2022, at about 1:30 in the afternoon, Don’s body let go after a show of strength to stay alive following the onset of a brain hemorrhage five days before. These five days demonstrate a strength that allowed those closest to him to say goodbye and cross into this new time without his presence, without his voice, and without him living amongst us to share in life. He leaves us with a very important example of strength too — an example to go out and live one’s life in ways that embody the goodness of how he chose to live his life until the final moment.
A service and interment will occur at a later date when the temperatures and conditions at McInnes Creek Chapel are most comfortable for attendees. In the meantime, Don’s family kindly requests that his friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour his memory by viewing the photo above. Please consider sharing your photos and/or your memories and stories using the Memory Wall on the Northridge Funeral Home page.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Don may be made to the Palliative Care Unit at La Verendrye Hospital; contact: La Verendrye General Hospital Auxiliary (807) 274-3261 or the McInnes Creek Chapel; contact: Bill Langner (807) 852-4457. Arrangements entrusted to Northridge Funeral Home Ltd.
We say, “This is not goodbye, it’s see you later.”