I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
Robert John (Bob) Nairn passed away on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 at the Dauphin Regional Health Centre at the age of 73 years.
Bob was born on March 11, 1945 at Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a much-anticipated son of Ivan Grenville and Beatrice Mary (nee Kenny) Nairn. In August of 1947, a sister for Bob arrived when Rilda was born.
Bob grew up on the family farm east of Glenboro, Manitoba. He received his education at Glenboro. The young family was forever changed by the sudden death of Bob’s mother Beatrice in 1961 at the age of 54.
An interest in cars led to a business venture at an early age when Bob opened the Glenboro Auto Body Shop after receiving his certifications in Winnipeg.
Sometimes fate builds a path for us, and this was the case for Bob. He would often remark that he was so comforted by the words of a funeral director, William R. (Bill) Jamieson when taking care of his mother’s funeral arrangements. Bill told Bob “he would get him through this”. These words comforted him and stuck with him. He would later work part time for Bill in both the ambulance and funeral service that he operated.
This work led to an opportunity to meet a new, young and beautiful nurse’s aide that had moved to the area - Diane Chyz. A courtship followed, and on July 19, 1969, Diane and Bob were married at Grandview, Manitoba.
This union led to a son, Paul being born in 1972 and a daughter, Allison in 1976.
In 1980, Bob sold his business when the opportunity to manage the Roblin Memorial Chapel presented itself. In 1982, Bob earned his Funeral Director professional designation, followed by Embalmer in 1983.
In 1989, Bob and Diane realized a dream when they opened Nairn-Chyz Funeral Home in a brand-new, purpose-built building. Bob was proud of the fact that Nairn-Chyz remained a small, family-operated operation, which enabled him and Diane to provide a high level of service to the families they served. The family continued to serve Roblin and area for the next 28 years until September 1, 2017 when Dereck Wolkowski took over the business.
Many knew Bob the “Funeral Director”, but not a lot of people knew Bob, “the man”. He was devoted to his community; serving on various boards for Knox United Church, a volunteer fire fighter, an ambulance attendant, a member of the Kinsmen Club, Masonic Lodge and the Royal Canadian Legion. He drove the Handivan on a volunteer basis and had a brief stint as Santa at the Merridale Community Centre.
He was also a self-taught musician - able to play music by ear, a woodworker, gardener, fisherman and a joker. He kept up with current events and loved a chat about politics and other events with friends or strangers.
Bob had many passions. He especially cherished time spent with his children and grandchildren. He loved camping, fishing, visiting and working on projects around home. Over the years, he made several hand-made wooden gifts for family and friends.
Second only to his family was Bob’s passion for funeral service. He considered it an honour to help families in the darkest days. He loved the profession and he was devoted to maintaining high standards in it. He was proud of the fact that his son, Paul and his son-in-law, Ryan became funeral directors and embalmers.
In April of 2015, Bob suffered a stroke during heart-bypass surgery in Regina. He spent several days in the ICU and our family was told to prepare for the worst. Bob persevered and started his recuperation, only to go into respiratory arrest on May 13, 2015 due to hospital-acquired pneumonia. Once again, Bob fought to survive and beat the odds. He returned to Manitoba to start rehabilitation in Brandon.
One year later in May of 2016, Bob was finally able to return to his home. He was lovingly cared for by Diane, assisted by “Team Bob” (Lillian Webster, Lynn Toews, Alice Styba), home care staff and medical care provided at Roblin District Health Centre.
Bob overcame several more hurdles over the next two years. On January 22 he faced his final fight. Despite the efforts of many people, Bob passed away at Dauphin Regional Health Centre.
Bob was predeceased by his mother Beatrice (nee Kenny) Nairn; his father-in-law Paul Chyz; his father Ivan Nairn; sister-in-law Sandra (nee Chyz) Smith; his special aunts and uncles, Lawrence and Annie (nee Kenny) Brooksbank, Gordon and Dorothy Nairn, Peter and Lena Chyz and Percy and Violet (nee Nairn) Clayton; his cousin Mary Ann Reid and her sons Jimmy and Bradley. He was also predeceased by other cousins and extended family.
Bob is survived by his wife Diane (nee Chyz) of Roblin; son Paul (Joanne) Nairn of Winnipeg, daughter Allison (Ryan) Lawson of Brandon; and his precious grandchildren, Tristen and Cooper Nairn, Gillian, Barrett, Jasper and Willa Lawson. Bob will also be missed by his sister Rilda (Gord) Van Hussen and family of Balmoral, his mother-in-law Anne Chyz of Winnipeg; his cousins Florence Stephenson of Glenboro; Albert (Elaine) Nairn of Brandon and Ceone (Steve) Hudey and their families. Bob will also be missed by Diane’s siblings, their spouses and their families, other extended family, and a host of friends.
A Visitation and Prayer Service was held on Friday, January 25 at 7:00 PM in the Chapel of NairnChyz-Wolkowski Funeral Home. Rev. Dr. Jenny Sprong officiated and Allison Shearer-Craig shared her musical talents. A dear family friend, Marilyn Simpson delivered some memories of Bob.
The Funeral Service was held on Saturday, January 26 at 11:00 AM in Roblin Knox United Church, also with Rev. Dr. Jenny Sprong officiating. Organist Becca Butler and the Roblin Knox United Church Choir led the congregational hymns, “Come In, Come In and Sit Down”; “Just As I Am” and “Be Not Afraid”. Bob’s son-in-law Ryan performed the solo “Thy Will Be Done”. Allison Lawson and Paul Nairn presented a Eulogy for their father.
Following the Funeral Service, a reception for family and friends was held at the Roblin Community Hall.
Diane, Allison and Paul drove Bob in the funeral hearse to Grandview Memorial Gardens, where he was carried to his final resting place by his brothers-in-law, Dwayne Chyz; Bryon Chyz; Mervin Chyz; Chris Molberg; Al Furneaux and Robert Stobbe.
Bob will be sadly missed by his family and friends. His spirit and values will live on in his children and grandchildren. He has finally earned his rest.
Memorial donations may be made to the Roblin Knox United Church Memorial Fund, Box 156, Roblin, MB, R0L 1P0. Funds donated will be put towards a special project at the church.
A Sunset on Earth
Is a Sunrise in Heaven
The following is a Eulogy for Bob that was presented at the Funeral Service by his children; Allison Lawson and Paul Nairn
Our Dad was born on March 11, 1945 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was the much-anticipated son of Beatrice and Ivan Nairn and older Brother to Rilda. Dad grew up on the family farm and attended school in Glenboro, Manitoba.
When my Dad was 16, he endured the loss of his dear Mom and he was forever changed. Little did he know then, his professional life’s course had been decided from that life event.
Following certification at Red River College in Winnipeg, Bob’s interest in cars led to a business venture at an early age. He opened the Glenboro Auto Body shop. During this time, Dad also worked part time for Bill Jamieson in both the ambulance and funeral service he operated. This work led to the opportunity to meet a new, young and beautiful nurse’s aid that had relocated from Grandview to Glenboro. A courtship followed and on July 19, 1969 the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Bob and Diane Nairn were married. This marriage led to a son Robert Paul born in 1972 and a daughter Allison Rilda Anne in 1976.
In 1980, Bob sold his Auto Body and relocated his young family to Roblin, where he was hired to manage Roblin Memorial Chapel. In 1982, he received his designation of Funeral Director followed by Embalmer in 1983. If you are familiar with the movie “My Girl” that is what life was like for us, living in the home located over the funeral home. Being told repeatedly not to fight, run and jump around when a prayer or a funeral service was going on, being accustomed to the smell of incense wafting up to the residence, knowing when the industrial-looking wall fan was on and the florescent lights could be seen through it that dad was doing an important job and we weren’t to go in that room. We learned that the business phone held the utmost importance, and that sometimes when it rang our plans changed or stopped and dad was gone.
Yes, we did not lead a “normal” life. But, it wasn’t all bad. There were opportunities for impromptu road trips that us kids loved to go on. They were sometimes referred to as “going to pick up a friend”. The first I remember was shortly after moving from Glenboro. Dad must have had business in Brandon or nearby. All four of us got into the hearse and off we went. The hearse was parked in an inconspicuous spot in Gail and Don Foster’s yard and we had an overnight visit. You may notice later today that we are going to attempt the same thing for old times sake, when Mom and us kids are going to take Dad to the cemetery in the hearse. It’s a bit concerning as Dereck’s hearse is a lot smaller than the 1968 Cadillac hearse we first tried it in. That, and we are bigger than we were in 1981!
Sometimes, the road trip was just Dad and one of us. Man, we looked forward to those! Going somewhere with dad, with the old mobile phone that was in a brief case back in those days was pretty awesome. Mobile YK5 0568- making a call on it made you feel like you were like Maxwell Smart or maybe even James Bond.
Allison and I tried to replicate a trip like this on Tuesday. She and I went to Dauphin to get Dad. (I told you that we weren’t a normal family). Back in the day, bagged sandwiches may have been brought along, as drive-thru’s weren’t a thing, and even if they were they weren’t an option. We didn’t bring anything along on Tuesday, and this resulted in a stop at the Gilbert Plains gas bar on our way to Dauphin. Egg salad and roast beef sandwiches were purchased, along with ginger ale. Sorry, Dereck- I think we forgot to mention that we ate in your hearse.
While managing Roblin Memorial Chapel, being an employee rather than a business owner, vacations were a thing that actually happened at regular intervals. We took many a trip to Lake of the Woods to enjoy houseboat adventures. Camping and fishing were also enjoyed, in such places as Lake of the Prairies, Madge Lake, Blue Lake and Child’s Lake. In later years, camping at Clear Lake and Madge Lake with their Grandkids was a special time. My Dad’s love of camping and fishing has been passed down to us and now we are instilling the love of those activities with our own children.
On September 1, 1989 a dream was realized and Nairn-Chyz Funeral Home was opened when Dad was 44 years old. Dad poured everything he had into this business, often at times to his own and our family’s detriment. He was selfless in his work and I will share with you all an excerpt from the history book of Funeral Service of Manitoba. “Surveying all that has happened, the good, the bad and beautiful, Bob Nairn says he is content with his lot and can take pride in his profession. “It’s the personal touch that counts in life and nowhere is that more apparent than dealing with those who have lost a loved one”.
One thing that is ever present in my mind is the fact the Dad was not scared to do anything as evidenced in the business venture I just spoke of. In case starting a business at 44 years of age wasn’t intimidating enough, we needed to find a new place to live. With a new business came learning on the fly, such as the computer. He was self taught and persevered in perfecting many computer programs. While he didn’t always embrace change, he was often trying new things. He was proud of the fact he was the second person in Roblin to own a fax machine.
Dad placed the highest level of importance on what happened in the preparation room, and especially the embalming process. He stayed up to date on the latest training and equipment diligently. He always said that the embalming was the most important part of the service we provided because if the embalming was inadequate it didn’t matter how well we did everything else. Although he would never boast, he was an accomplished embalmer and I know his expertise brought peace to countless families in our community.
My Dad was an up cycler and green before it was a societal norm. We often saw evidence of these projects such as birdhouses, potato bins, a doll house, toilets turned into planters and the like. You can be guaranteed little of the material would have been purchased, but instead used from some scraps he found somewhere. There was an old home located behind the funeral home that he, along with David Bauer and I took down by hand. All the nails were pulled and straightened, much to our dismay. He also had a knack for losing his tools and had duplicates of pretty much everything. My Mom loved nothing more than finding my Dad outside or in the garage painting or gluing something in his suit pants, having just come home from a funeral service.
My Dad would give anyone the time of day, from any walk of life, wealthy or not, everyone was an equal without fail. Everyone started on a level playing field with him. When he came to meet my son Jasper in 2011, I needed to make a trip down to the Canada/US border. He got to our house, met Jasper and off we went. Once I picked up my package from border services, we carried onto Bottineau North Dakota’s Super Walmart – quite the destination. He had a quick look around, bought a couple fishing rods (one was pink for Gillian) and a tackle box. And then he went outside, most likely to visit and smoke. Once I was done my shopping, I went outside to find him. He was able to tell me the life history of the guy whom he’d been chatting with on the bench. He’d also found out what year the Super Walmart was built, along with other details of the construction - typical Bob Nairn Behaviour. However, with everyone starting on a level playing field, if you crossed him it was tough to get back into his good books. He was a man of his word and believed with a lion’s heart that others should be as well. In fact, he was loyal to fault at times.
Dad was the proud Grandfather of six grandkids. Tristen, was the first to arrive in 2004. 2006 was a bonus year with Gillian and Cooper. Barrett was born in 2008. Jasper arrived in 2011, his middle name is Nairn and Dad was so very proud of that. In 2016 sweet Willa arrived, which brought much happiness to him. When I called to tell my parents we’d had a girl and that her name was Willa, my Dad asked if I’d named her after his piano teacher. I did not know he had a piano teacher named Willa but it has left a precious memory.
Now most of you know Bob as the funeral director. However, Bob the man was on various boards for the Church we are in, volunteer fire fighter, ambulance attendant, member of the Kinsmen club, Masonic Lodge and the Royal Canadian Legion. He drove the Handivan on a volunteer basis and had a brief stint as Santa at the Merridale community centre. He was also a self-taught musician - able to play music by ear, a woodworker, gardener, fisherman and a joker. He kept up with current events and loved a chat about politics and other events. He was also not one to back down and when he had an opinion on something, it didn’t often change.
My Dad struggled with his mental health and we share this with you because while he appeared to be a strong, tough guy that was often not the case. He had many ups and downs over the years and always pulled through. Even though he was stubborn as an ox, he faithfully attended appointments and worked with his Doctor in an effort to cope.
In April 2015, Dad had an appointment to have a stent put in. His health was not good after years of burning the candle at both ends. On his last day of work, he arranged funeral services for Yvonne Sather, someone he respected greatly. The next day he and Mom headed to Regina where he quickly learned the damage to arteries feeding his heart was severe. Open-heart surgery was recommended and performed on April 15. While his heart surgery went well, he suffered a severe stroke during the procedure. It was touch and go for a few days and we were told to prepare for the worst. However, being the stubborn guy he was he hung on and the first sign he was coming back to us was a wiggle on his right foot that his friend Cyril was present to witness. On May 13, 2015 while recuperating in the neurology unit he almost left us again due to hospital acquired pneumonia that resulted in him going into respiratory arrest. Once more, his tenacity and will to live surfaced. A year later, in May 2016 he was able to come home to live while being cared for by my Mom, “Team Bob” and homecare. Even though life had not been easy these last few years for Dad, he persevered.
Good things can come from bad things as we have come to learn in the last few years. Relationships that were thought to be lost were rekindled, and Dad finally retired. I believe we are all more compassionate.
Dad, we want you to know that we are all going to be okay. You have taught us well and we are going to instil these lessons in our children.
You have taught us to never shy away from a challenge and that we can learn to do just about anything if we try hard enough.
You have taught us how to be brave. Many times, either as a paramedic or a funeral director I have entered situations that seemed too awful to be real. But, I knew over your many years of doing the same thing that you had seen the same or much worse and this knowledge gave me the courage I needed to help those who needed it.
You have taught us that there is no greater honour than being called on in the darkest of times to help friends and neighbours.
You have taught us that in order to get through all this that you must take time to smell the roses, go fishing and plant morning glory.
You taught us what it means to be selfless. You showed us that when someone needs us that are in dire straights they deserve our best, whether we are sick, had plans or it is the middle of the night.
You have taught us that no matter what station of life someone is in, when they come into your office in need that they are the most important person in the world.
You have taught us if something is worth doing, it is worth doing to the nth degree, over engineering it and over protecting it with duct tape.
You taught us that friendships should last forever, through thick and thin.
You taught us that if you are wronged and you truly believe that, you should fight for what is right, as long as it takes, even if it makes you unpopular.
You taught us what it means to be tenacious, and to never, ever give up.
You taught us that a little bit of humour at just the right moment could lighten the blackest of times.
You have taught us to go the extra mile. That may mean loaning the hearse to a family who lost their 15-year-old son so they could go to the farm and enjoy one more sunset. It may mean bringing the rocking chair from home to the funeral home so parents who lost their baby can properly cradle him instead of just looking at him in the casket.
You have made me better at my job, by showing me that a patient is more than just a set of vital signs, things don’t always happen like it said in the textbook, and survival and beating the odds doesn’t always make sense even to the smartest of doctors.
You have taught us that even though there it may be impossible to see the good in the bad things that happen to us, sometimes that adversity puts you on a life path that leads to you helping untold amounts of people in the darkest of times.
You taught us that even if it isn’t always verbally expressed, love each other with all your heart.
We will be okay dad, thanks to you. We are so happy that you’ve finally earned your rest.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert (Bob) Nairn, please visit our floral store.
Roblin Knox United Church Memorial Fund
Box 156, Roblin, MB R0L 1P0,