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Gudmundur “Manni” Peter Peterson: Homesteader. Soldier. Engineer. Pioneer. Born Oct. 25, 1923, in Oakview, Man.; died Nov. 13, 2018, in Toronto, of Alzheimer’s disease; aged 95.

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Gudmundur Peterson.The Globe and Mail

Gudmundur’s life experiences would span – as he described it in his memoirs – from the Stone Age to the space age. He was born premature, one hour after his sister, in a log home built by his parents – Gudrun, his Icelandic mother, and his father, Ragnvald, who grew up in the Faroe Islands. Gudrun would deliver the twins herself and nicknamed her son “Manni,” with the hopes he would grow into one. Manni and his sister Grace would be the fifth and sixth of nine children.

Manni’s childhood was spent homesteading; growing crops, raising animals, hunting game and ice fishing in Lake Manitoba. He and his siblings walked 2½ miles to a one-room schoolhouse; in winter, they travelled by dog team (squirrels or rabbits that crossed their path would often leave them in a tangle of dogs, harnesses and sleigh when the dogs gave chase). In autumn, he would hunt game for dinner on the way home with a .22 rifle and a slingshot. He learned English at school – his parents spoke Icelandic at home – along with meticulous handwriting and finessing his precise signature.

At 14, Manni left school to look after the farm animals and thought that there must be a better career for him. In 1942, at 19, he joined the military and was assigned to the 1st Hussars regiment. On D-Day, Trooper Peterson landed in a Sherman tank on Juno Beach in Normandy.

After the war, Manni returned home, completed high school, enrolled in the University of Manitoba and graduated in 1951 with a BSc in mechanical engineering.

While being processed back into civilian life in 1946, Manni had stayed at the Oxford Hotel in Winnipeg. He would head next door to the Waffle Shop, which is where he first saw Sophie Chenkie, a cheerful, pretty Polish woman who served him breakfast. They met again at a dance a few weeks later, meshing perfectly and marrying two years later. They would have four children – Sandra, Susan, Glenn and Kristin – born in four different cities as Manni moved around for work.

His professional career started at Orenda, in Toronto, designing the turbojet engine for the Avro Arrow. He had a knack for mechanical aerodynamics and thermodynamics, and in 1957 he found himself on a team hired by Pratt and Whitney Canada to break into the gas turbine engine business. Their design was the world-class PT6 turboprop aircraft engine.

While the family was living in Quebec, Manni designed and built a house in an apple orchard at the foot of Mont Saint-Hilaire, so his family would have a beautiful view. He grew flowers, picked apples and brewed apple cider, which he shared with the neighbours. In retirement, Manni picked up golf and landed his first (and only) hole in one at the age of 78. He would play until he turned 90. His six grandchildren would call him Afi (grandfather in Icelandic), he would play with them and hand-write long letters about their family history to help with school projects.

Manni cherished Sunday family gatherings, and died just a couple of days after attending his last Remembrance Day ceremony with them at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Veterans Centre, his final home.

Glenn Peterson is Manni’s son.

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