July 8, 1952 - July 1, 2022
Donna Whannock died on July 1, 2022 at the Riverview Health Center after a battle with cancer.
Donna Whonnock was born to Maxwell Whonnock and Alice Whonnock (née Seaweed) on July 8, 1952 in Alert Bay, BC. She was named Donna May for the nurse that delivered her. Donna recalled loving siblings that carried her and laughingly ran with her in their arms. She recalled sad times and silence when the boys went away to residential school. She shared early memories of a fire and a scary boat trip to Campbell River, BC, to stay with aunty Bessie and Jim King.
Life is never easy, and after several years Donna was taken back by her mother and father and brought to Squamish, BC, where she spent her teen years with Sam and Sadie Baker, and was reunited with her sister Emma and brother Charlie. The early death of her parents allowed her to visit Alert Bay once again and to know cousins Pinky and Peggy, who welcomed her home.
As an adult, leaving Squamish, Donna worked as a chambermaid, a flagger, fish processor at a cannery, flyer delivery person, and she took part in many educational opportunities which included practicum experiences in offices around Vancouver.
Donna bore three children, Lola, Shawn and Hannah. She married Anders Halsingdal and lived for a time in Squamish once again. Childhood friendships flourished and Donna maintained contact with Sam and Sadie and felt the joy of being with her niece Lorinda, whenever she could. But the marriage did not flourish, and Donna left to live in Vancouver, once again.
In Vancouver, Donna worked hard to find work and affordable housing. Life was not easy. Andy came and brought Hannah home to Squamish after a time of struggle and challenges. Donna struggled to find a home and survive through the many hardships of being a single mom and Indigenous in an unwelcoming city. Eventually Lola and Shawn ended up in foster care and Donna spent many years challenged to deal with substance abuse and homelessness.
20 years ago, in November, Donna was able to get clean and sober, she found Tsow-tem-le-lum, a recovery and healing centre, and had the opportunity to take part in a six-week program. When she had finished that program, she was lucky enough to find housing support and eventually a place in subsidized housing.
Donna was able to reconnect with family and rebuild. Donna enjoyed many years at this building, gardening, volunteering, making friends, and having wonderful visits with her grandchildren: Britt, Jesse, Eddie, Tarquin, Quoia and Henry.
In 2016, Donna moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba to have more time and some care support with her daughter Lola. In 2019, mom became a regular volunteer with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and she achieved her goal of graduating from high school. The pandemic was hard on all of us, but particularly the gregarious and friendly Donna Whonnock. 2021 included two surgeries and a diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer.
Donna was a fighter. She took every action she could to counter the cancer. She suffered a lot of pain and got weaker and weaker throughout 2022. The highlight of this time was having a visit with her daughter Hannah and her niece Lorinda in February.
Donna Whonnock died on July 1, 2022 at Riverview Health Center.
Donna was predeceased by her parents, Alice and Maxwell, her brothers: Bobby, Max, Reuben, Phillip, Charlie, Royal, her sisters Ada and Emma, her niece Catherine, and nephew Max. Donna is survived by her brother George, her children, Lola, Shawn and Hannah, her nieces and nephews, Anita, Mary, Tracy, John, Linda, Lorinda, Scarlett, Josephine, her grandchildren, Britt, Jessie, Eddie, Henry, Tarquin and Quoia, as well as one great grandson, Charles.
A ceremony in her honour will take place in September and a return home to Alert Bay for a funeral and to spread her ashes will happen in November.
Donna Whonnock was a lifelong volunteer and supporter of community-based work. Should you wish to make a donation in her name, think Indigenous and give to an organization that supports Truth and Reconciliation.
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