Dale Gustafson has played his last set.

On the evening of June 15, 2023, Dale leaned back into his chair and after a short rest stepped on the stairway to heaven, starting his journey to join his ancestors. Some call this heaven, some say afterlife; Dale believed that the spirit moves on.

Music was Dale’s first love. After getting his first guitar Dale never looked back; although he played many other instruments it was always his favourite. In high school he played guitar with friends in the band Orpheus, later collaborating with many local musicians. He taught guitar to dozens of area youth and adults. Dale’s faith in their abilities and his patience as a teacher allowed his students to become confident and skilled musicians. It was Dale’s joy to teach all of his daughters — and, briefly, his oldest granddaughter — how to play; the love of music they shared will carry on in their hearts.

Dale was born in 1959, joining brothers Gary and Jim at the family home in Crozier with his mom, Mary (Barrett) and dad, Stan (Gustafson). His younger brother David was born several years later, after the family moved to Fifth Street. Dale shared many stories of extended family visits, adventures with close friends, and rich relationships with cousins and friends across the district. Some favourites included the harrowing wagon ride with Queenie, riding his bicycle to Pearson’s landing, skidding across the ice at the point, and other neighbourhood shenanigans – he was always doing something with someone! His teen years revolved around friendship and music. His friends’ families claimed Dale as their ‘extra son’ and were happy to see him throughout his life. In fact, Dale was well-known across the district as someone who cared about people.

Dale also had many friends from his years working at the mill. He would enjoy long chats with them everywhere he went. For several years, Dale was released from the paper machines to do health and safety work and develop training programs. After the mill closed Dale worked in various safety roles around northern Ontario, where his knowledge and skills were valued. His reputation as a skilled and knowledgeable Health and Safety Trainer reflected his concern for the safety of workers and his dedication to their well-being. In fact, during recent home renovations, he recognized several young workers whom he had trained when they were in high school.

Early in adulthood Dale was actively involved with the local NDP, which he returned to briefly last spring. He was also the president of the Fort Frances & District Labour Council, and volunteered with several community organizations over the years.

Fatherhood was Dale’s most cherished role. Dale was overjoyed by the birth of his daughter Heidi. After he and Heidi’s mom (Michelle) parted ways, Dale and JoAnne had two children together, Maureen and Erin. Dale parented his children with love, humour, and respect for their individual personalities. Weekends and holidays always included movies: Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings were favourites. They went on March Break road trips visiting aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends from Ottawa to British Columbia. Every trip brought adventure and fun with friends and family and Dale always came home with new stories to tell.

Summer was family camping time. Dale, JoAnne and the girls camped in many beautiful spots in northern Ontario and beyond. All three girls will forever cherish memories of their Dad playing his guitar around the campfire. More recently, Dale and JoAnne traveled to destinations across North and Central America as well as the Caribbean, creating new memories together.

Dale began to experience health setbacks starting in spring 2022 and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma in early February 2023. He maintained his hopeful attitude, following all the suggestions, routines, and therapies prescribed by his team. Even as his condition continued to deteriorate, Dale remained positive, sharing his hopes with the many friends he spoke to regularly. Encouraged by the ongoing support, Dale reminded everyone how much he loved them. His hope helped all of us.

After several weeks in the hospital Dale returned home on June 14. The next evening he passed away peacefully in his favourite chair, JoAnne nearby.

Dale is survived by wife JoAnne (with whom he spent the last 33 years) and daughters Heidi (Johnny, and daughters Ciara and Aine), Maureen (Franz), and Erin (Neil); his brothers Gary (Jacki, and son Nicholas), Jim (daughters Sydney and Brooke), and David (Brenda, and daughter Jillian) will return for their final goodbyes along with extended family.

Dale’s family invites you to join them at Rainy Lake Square on Wednesday, June 28, 2023, at 4:00 p.m. for a casual get-together in his memory. Instruments are optional, but encouraged. If you wish, you can also remember him through a contribution, by cheque, to Myeloma Canada or the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) c/o Northridge Funeral Home, Box 89, Emo, Ontario P0W 1E0

To the living, I am gone,
To the sorrowful, I will never return,
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.

I cannot speak, but I can listen.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore gazing at a beautiful sea,
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity,
Remember me.

Remember me in your heart:
Your thoughts, and your memories,
Of the times we loved,
The times we cried,
The times we fought,
The times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never have gone.

Remember Me
By Margaret Mead

Play your favourite song and Dale will be there.