Donald Acton
Donald Acton
Donald Acton
Donald Acton
Donald Acton
Donald Acton

Obituary of Donald Findlay Acton

Acton, Donald Findlay,

June 16/1934- April 29/2023


It’s not a matter of years the man has been around or the trail in life he chose to take, 
but it’s the things he does for everyone that makes a man so great.

Donald Findlay Acton (88 years of age), of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan passed away suddenly and peacefully on April 29, 2023 at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

Don was born on the Acton homestead at Lemberg, Saskatchewan (SE Sec. 10, Tp. 19 Rg. 9 W2nd) to Richard and Annie (nee McKinnon) Acton on June 16, 1934. 

Don is survived by his wife of 63 years, Sylvia Lillian (nee Harrison) and their children Kevin (Heather, children Hannah and Luke and partner Madison) and Cheryl Steponchev (Richard, children Mikael and Alexa). Don is also survived by his brothers and sisters Duncan, Elinor, Doris, Richard (Marjory), and Clifford (Enid). Don has several in-laws, nieces and nephews and additional extended family who all lived large in his life. Don is preceded in death by his parents, brother Samuel (Anne) and sister Beth (Wilf), sister-in-law, Millie, and brothers-in-law Bill and Leonard.

Don had an illustrious education and career. He attended high school in Lemberg, Saskatchewan and went on to earn his BSA degree in Agriculture with a specialization in Soil Science at the University of Saskatchewan in 1957, followed by his M.Sc. degree in 1961. He completed the requirements for his Ph.D. in Soil Science at the University of Illinois in 1971. Don worked with soil survey in all parts of the province and directed the survey of the Saskatoon map area. Don was active in setting up the national soil classification system for Canada and chaired the committee on landform classification. Don’s involvement in the conduct of soil studies in Saskatchewan was evident from his position as Associate Director of the Saskatchewan Institute of Pedology. He was appointed Associate Professor in the Department of Soil Science and supervised the research of several graduate students at the M.Sc. and Ph.D. levels. He was the Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Soil Science (1986-1987) and President of the CSSS in 1988-89. He served as Head of the federal Soil Survey Unit in Saskatoon from 1967 to 1990. From 1989 until he retired in 1995, Don was the National Leader of the Soil Quality Evaluation Program, part of the National Soil Quality Program. After his retirement, Don continued to be actively involved in a CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) erosion remediation project in Vietnam and acted as consultant to many. With his work he travelled extensively in the 80’s and 90’s to Brazil, Egypt, Africa, as well as Vietnam. In Vietnam, in particular, Don enjoyed many valued close personal friendships with his colleagues and students there, many of whom visited him in Saskatoon and became honourary members of the family. 

Don was elected a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Soil Science in 1992 for his outstanding contribution to Soil Science and the wise use and conservation of Canada’s land resources. His expertise was recognized nationally and internationally. In addition to his scientific articles, Don was invited to contribute to many publications, including a major book on grasslands of the world and the Encyclopedia of Canada. 

Don was a devoted horticulturist and loved his roses in particular. He was always happy to be digging in the soil and making things grow. Sylvia enjoyed the fruits of his labour with never-ending flowers for her to cut and enjoy. His other passions included hiking, photography, wildlife, classical music, opera and sports. He curled for many years and was a staunch fan of the game. Don was an avid Dodgers fan back into the 50’s when they played in Brooklyn. He still watched Dodger’s games faithfully. He was also an avid Leaf’s fan. We are pretty sure they won their first playoff series in almost 20 years as a tribute to Don on the day he died. Don loved seeing and experiencing different landscapes and cultures. He and Sylvia travelled to many parts of the world including Europe a number of times, and Africa. He and Sylvia have been long time dedicated patrons of the Saskatoon arts community. 

Friends. Don had many treasured friends. He always looked forward to social gatherings and hosting his Ag Grad Class of ‘57 and SAGA (Saskatchewan AgGrads Association for which he served a term as president) for reunions and events. Don took just as much pleasure helping Sylvia organize and host the ‘59 Dips (Sylvia’s 1959 Diploma Nurses Class) for many of their reunions and shenanigans. So much a part of their gatherings was he that they contemplated a capping ceremony for him. 

A special and enduring passion of Don’s was family history. He spent countless hours researching, corresponding, writing, and collecting information and photographs about the Acton and McKinnon family histories, even visiting locations in Europe to locate and review primary documents. A good trip for Don was hiking through a cemetery in Scotland or England. Don wrote and published a number of genealogical memoirs and family stories that will be made available to the public on a website. As niece Linda Forseth wrote, “Our whole family loved and respected this legendary man who kept us all aware of ‘where we came from’. He is irreplaceable.”

Without a doubt what brought Don the most joy and pride was his family. Time with his kids and his grandchildren was treasured above all. The many trips he went on with them, teaching them all about soils, abc horizons, hummocky moraines and other geological formations, wildlife, plants, and all the other bits of knowledge he loved to quiz them about will remain a cherished memory. He rarely missed an opportunity to watch and participate in their sporting, musical, and theatrical events and performances and he took great pleasure and pride in all these as well as their post-secondary pursuits and accomplishments. He has been dearly loved and has influenced us all.

The family wishes to extend their gratitude to Dr.  J. Tam and clinical nurse Niki, Dr. N. Petti, Dr. M. Deutscher, Dr. M. Bosch, Dr. K. Anderson, Dr. J. de Villiers,  Anne Gutiw, Donna Langley, Home Care nurses, NorDon Pharmacy and Medical, and his gardening buddy Tristen Shinkewski. 

A celebration of life will be held at the GlenLyon Room at The Glen at Crossmount on Sunday, June 18, 2023 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Appetizers and beverages will be provided. A private internment will take place on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 2:00 pm at Ellisboro Cemetery near Wolseley, Saskatchewan. Arrangements have been entrusted to Saskatoon Funeral Home. 

Memorial donations may be made to the Nature Conservancy of Canada ( 

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