Neil Ofeigur Bardal
Funeral Business/Cultural Winnipeg, MB
Neil Ofeigur Bardal, the son of Njall Ofeigur Bardal and Sigridur Sesselja Johnson, was the product of two large Icelandic families. His grandparents were Arinbjorn Sigurgeirsson Bardal and Margret Ingibjorg Olafsdottir and Helgi Jonsson and Asta Johnnesdottir Johnson. Neil was born on February 16, 1940. His twin sister, Christine, was still-born. His father, Njall Ofeigur, who had served in the Militia during the thirties, had been enlisted into the Regular Force when war was declared in September, 1939. Njall was a captain in the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Regiment was sent to Hong Kong where he was taken prisoner by the Japanese on Christmas Day, 1941.
During this terrible waiting period, his mother, Sigga, moved in with her parents at 1023 Ingersoll Avenue, in the heart of the Icelandic district in Winnipeg. There was a steady stream of family members to that home, as well as Icelandic visitors, and Icelandic was the predominant language spoken.
In October 1945, after the war was over, Neil remembered going with all the family to meet the troop train at the CNR station and being thrust into the arms of the strange uniformed soldier. With his parents reunited, they moved back to their suite in the Bardal Funeral Home on Sherbrook Street, where he was surrounded by his uncles Karl and Gerry and his Bardal grandparents. His parents adopted a little girl, Jean Anne, and they moved in 1952 to their new home in Silver Heights on the outskirts of Winnipeg.
From the age of 12, Neil always had a job. He worked as a paper boy and then as a stock boy in a local grocery store, drove a delivery truck for Eaton’s, and trained as an army cadet, where he was involved in the senior leader’s program.
Neil attended St. James Collegiate and United College and even considered entering the Lutheran Ministry. His father had other plans. He was sent to Toronto to apprentice in a funeral home. He enjoyed three years at Trull Funeral Home and graduated from Embalmer’s school with an Ontario license. After working five years in the family business in Winnipeg, at the age of 29 he bought a partnership in the business, which lasted ten more years. In 1980 Neil started his own funeral business on Portage Avenue. In 2009 he realized his dream with the opening of the Neil Bardal Funeral Center across from Brookside Cemetery.
Neil served as president of the Icelandic National League from 1988 to 1991 so Neil was active in the state visit in 1989 of President of Iceland, Vigdis Finnbogadottir. He felt this trip re-established a strong connection between North America and Iceland. Neil was appointed Icelandic Consul General in 1994. He was very involved in the year 2000 celebration, travelling to Iceland with David Gislason to help set up 200 events from L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland to Vancouver, B.C. Neil along with Atli Asmundsson was instrumental in the creation of "Nuna - Now", the local festival of Icelandic creative arts - vocal, musical, dance, theatre, etc. that has carried on annually. Through his company, Neil Bardal Inc. he also helped with many details where financial obligations were avoided because he paid them. E.g. He always supplied the wreath for the wreath laying on June 17th ceremony.
Neil spent many hours driving visitors, especially around the Interlake district, which is so important in the history of the Icelandic settlement in Manitoba. He enjoyed the one-to-one relationship that this time together afforded
As well as his many activities involving Icelanders, Neil, as a Funeral Director, was Registrar, Western School of Funeral Services and Board of Administration under the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Act of Manitoba. He was a member and Past President of the Manitoba Funeral Service Association, member of the Funeral Association of Canada, and member of the Cremation Association of North America.
Neil also served on the Board of the Riverview Health Centre Foundation. He was a member of the Manitoba Club, Canadian Club, and Rotary Club, in which he was President at the time of his passing. He was also active in the Masonic Order and became a Deputy Grand Master. He was involved in Folklorama at the Icelandic Pavilion and the Folk Arts Council, on which he served as Vice President.
In addition, he served on the Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada and was a life member of the St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church from 1956. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Life Insurance Co. from 1990 to 2000.
Canada’s involvement in defending Hong Kong during World War II affected Neil’s life greatly. He made a point of travelling to Hong Kong to visit where the prison camps were located and where the battles were held. He had a strong relationship with members of the Hong Kong Veterans Association, of which he was also a member.
From the time he was a small boy Neil took piano lessons. He was assistant organist at St. Stephen’s Church and also played in the chapel in the Deer Lodge Health Centre. He served as chairman of the Royal College of Organists.
Neil and his wife, Annette, shared a lovely home in Husavik Manitoba. It is named “Svartarkot” in honour of his Afi Arinbjorn’s birthplace in Iceland. Neil and Annette have two sons, Eirik and Jon, and four grandchildren: Eirika Catherine, Sean Neil Ofeigur, Arinbjorn Stefan, and Zoe Signy. Neil succumbed to cancer on February 13, 2010.
Agnes Bardal Comack