David Romanyshyn

Obituary of David Romanyshyn

David passed away peacefully in hospital to the recording of a polka that he had written and performed, his wife and several family members close by. He is survived by his wife Penney of 54 years, his brother Walter (Miranda), mother-in-law Doris, several brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, many nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, friends, and neighbors. To members and fans of the Manitoba music scene, Dave Roman is remembered as a brilliant performing artist who combined an easygoing style, meticulous musicianship, and a practiced showmanship. To his family and friends he is remembered as a man of wide-ranging knowledge and talents, and boundless generosity. Born in Gimli, on January 4, 1944 as “Dyonizy Romanyshyn” to Ukrainian immigrants Fred and Anna, the family lived in Fraserwood until Dave was 11, and his interest in music began when he would sit on the steps of Fraserwood Hall and listen to the bands play. Raised in the tradition of the Ukrainian Catholic faith, Dave’s musical leanings were intertwined with his Ukrainian culture from the very beginning. In 1955 the Romanyshyn’s moved to Arlington Street in Winnipeg. Dave attended Issac Newton School and Sisler High School. He found work at a bowling alley to pay for music lessons at Deeley Accordion School. Little did he know that learning the accordion at a young age was the beginning of a lifelong love and career. It was in school that he met Ihor (Yogi) Klos. They combined their talents, packed their instruments in a wagon and were soon playing regularly at family bridal showers and other events. Dave also had a gift for design and craftsmanship, and found work as an architectural draftsman for Pratt, Lingren, and Associates immediately after high school. He was very fond of the 1912 design of the Arlington Street Bridge, and for a period, his two artistic passions fought for his attention. But Dave took a six-month leave of absence from the firm when his group, now known as the D-Drifters 5, were invited to play on a multinational tour with the famed Ukrainian singing duo, Mickey and Bunny, and released their first album together. Dave never returned to his architecture firm, when he got back home, the D-Drifters just kept playing. He did try one more time, a couple years later, to carve out time for building design, enrolling in a degree program at Musker Engineering. But he had to choose, and embraced the life of a full-time musician. Highlights of this career included a month-long residency in Las Vegas, performances with the Rusalka Dance Troupe in Scotland and England, and a dozen albums released across the decades. But there were also many, many corporate events, festivals, weddings, graduations, socials, and dances. The D-Drifters were always a great party band, playing the most memorable events of people’s lives. Dave met his lifelong sweetheart, Penney, through mutual friends. They courted for five years and were married July 13, 1968. They purchased property in West St. Paul that had been the site of a former plant nursery and came with a 600-square-foot house. Dave used his skills as a draftsman and carpenter, converting the greenhouse into a recording studio that would later house Maddock Studio, and greatly expanding and remodeling the home he and Penny would share for the rest of his life. At Maddock Studio, Dave became known as a skilled producer and sound engineer and, just as in his performing life, someone who willingly helped young musicians in any way that he could. He is remembered as a generous mentor to a generation of musicians, such as Al Simmons. As Dave moved into retirement, he continued to practice accordion every morning in the studio, but more and more of his time was taken cultivating a huge vegetable garden. As with so many of his other interests, the depth of his horticultural knowledge and skill was unmatched. Dave and Penney’s family and friends regularly shared in the bounty of fresh potatoes, lettuce, carrots, and hot peppers, not to mention jams and preserves, pickles, the wild mushrooms he hunted, and his famous borscht. The consummate host, visitors always left well-fed. When Dave and Penney began wintering in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the gardening continued, and they returned to Manitoba each spring with an entirely different harvest to share. To his brothers and brothers and sisters-in-law, Dave always seemed wise far beyond his years, he was a big brother even to those who were not much younger than him. In his large family he was the go-to person in a wide array of areas of expertise. He was asked to advise or help with all manner of projects, personal and commercial, from carpentry to landscaping to cabinet-making. Many of his family still have cherished Dave originals. The West St. Paul property was also a central pillar in the childhood of Dave and Penney’s many nieces and nephews. Many songs were learned and tapes made in the studio, with young cousins learning piano duets and singing together under his tutelage. Summer visits almost always included harvesting fresh vegetables for lunch, picking raspberries or gooseberries, and learning how to pick potato bugs, dig up a beet, and plant a seed. There seemed no limit to Dave’s patience and energy for visiting children. Until the end of his life, visiting grand-nephews and grand-nieces received the same warm welcome that their parents had. Uncle Dave made every family holiday and informal visit special. He was held in highest esteem, trusted implicitly, and loved widely and deeply, and he returned that love without reserve. Though taken from us far too soon by the Covid Pandemic, Dave Roman’s musical legacy will live on in the hearts of the public and the annals of Manitoba music history. Amongst his family and friends, a hole has been left that can never be filled, but the love and memories we share we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.
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