We Remember


March 16, 1941 — December 26, 2019

A life well lived and a life well loved.  Denise Cecile Nahirney was a trailblazer and a pioneer of women.  She was a private pilot, a businesswoman and community leader.  She was recognized by the City of Kelowna as Woman of the Year and with the Kelowna Arts Council Award.  Most importantly she was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and loyal friend.

Denise’s home and heart were always open for others.  She was, throughout her lifetime, a leader in the community, a connector of people, a giver to others, a builder of family and home.

Denise was born on March 16, 1941, in Anaheim, Saskatchewan where her father ran the General Store.  She excelled in school, accelerated a grade and attended Bruno St. Ursula’s Academy Residential Girls School.  She moved to Saskatoon where she attended the University of Saskatchewan, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and working around the province in her field.  When Bill met Denise at University, he knew she was the girl of his dreams.  They married in 1962 and lived in Wisconsin, Toronto, and Winnipeg before settling in Kelowna in 1969.  They had four children – Lois, Doug, Pat and Lynnette.  Denise’s family was her pride and joy.

While in Winnipeg, Denise joined Bill in earning her private pilot’s license and was one of the first women in that city and the country to earn her wings.  Denise and Bill flew for business and pleasure across North America in their different planes over the ensuing decades.  Denise worked with Bill in their companies Apex Engineering, Apex Helicopters, Alpha Marketing, and Truckers First. With her love of local art, she later went on to manage the Kelowna Art Gallery.  As an orchard and vineyard owner in East Kelowna, she was instrumental in the founding and managing of the BC Orchard Industry Museum. Denise and Bill did a sojourn in Brandon where Denise applied her social work profession by working with the Queen’s Court Bench of Manitoba delivering a first offenders program that resulted in close to 100% non-re-offense.  In their next move to Fort McMurray, Denise was well-loved as the coordinator for the Senior’s Community Centre.  In their return to Kelowna, Denise was active with Bill in developing a health-focused business right to her last days.  She also worked innumerable volunteer jobs throughout her lifetime.

Denise joined the University Women’s Club (CFUW) in the 1980’s and was an active member over decades, acting as Kelowna President and the Western Canada Regional Vice President, establishing a new CFUW club in Fort McMurray and representing Kelowna at the most recent 100th anniversary of CFUW in Winnipeg in June 2019.  She was a founding member of the Ogopogo Rotary Club. Denise was also active with the John Howard Society, Elizabeth Fry Society, Kelowna Arts Council, Okanagan Heritage Society, SPCA, Probus, East Kelowna Irrigation District, Ex-Service Women’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch #215, Forester’s, Book Club and many more.  Her favourite hobbies were reading, crafts and playing bridge with her friends. She loved music, art, and animals.  She was well-loved for her humorous, insightful and thoughtful emails and widespread internet family and friend communications.

Among some of her life highlights, Denise traveled behind the iron curtain to Russia in 1976, climbed Machu Picchu in Peru in 1980 where she had a mystical experience, explored her family’s homeland of Germany, visited her kids in England, Yellowknife, Hawaii, Singapore and around the world, rode an elephant in Cambodia, volunteered at a girls camp in Vietnam, and had a close encounter with Ogopogo in 1996 after which she became a member of the cryptozoology society and was quoted in several books.

Denise passed peacefully on Boxing Day December 26th, 2019, in our arms, in her home, looking over the beautiful Okanagan Valley.  She experienced complications from cancer. She leaves her adoring husband of 57+ years, William (Bill), and children Dr. Lois Nahirney of Vancouver (Tom Dielschneider), Major Douglas Nahirney of Ottawa (Joanna Nolan), Dr. Patrick Nahirney of Victoria (Elizabeth Hansen) and Major Lynnette MacKay of Alexandria, Virginia (MWO (ret’d) Justin MacKay), grandchildren Natalie, Levi, Kailyn, Cairns and Blake, siblings Elwood, Charles and Ramona Aschenbrenner, and in-laws Mary, Peter, Leela, Annie, Helen, Leroy, Barb, and Gary, along with many wonderful nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Denise was a special lady. She made a difference in so many people’s lives.  She was always ready to help others with an open and loving heart.  She loved to smile and laugh and make others happy.  We know God is smiling with her.  She will forever be in our hearts, guiding us from above.

She lived by the messages in the song Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young, and Leave a Beautiful Memory (Faron Young, 1957).

The Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, January 11th, 2020 at 1:00 pm at the Springfield Funeral Home, 2020 Springfield Road in Kelowna.

In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) at https://cfuwcharitabletrust.ca/canadahelps-org-donation-form/ General Fund with in memory of Denise Nahirney, for a bursary for a young woman studying health care or business to be awarded in Denise’s name.

Thank you to all for your love and friendship to Denise.  She adored her friends and family.  We will all miss her.

If you wish to send a condolence, post photos or share a memory, please scroll down the page to the area called “Condolences”.


1:00 PM - Saturday, January 11, 2019

Springfield Funeral Home

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Canadian Federation of University Women Link: cfuwcharitabletrust.ca/canadahelps-org-donation-form/


Service Information

Service Details

The service for NAHIRNEY, Denise is scheduled for 1:00 PM - Saturday, January 11, 2019. Below you will find the map for the service location and the contact information should you have any questions.

Address & Contact for Service Location:

Springfield Funeral Home

2020 Springfield Road Kelowna, BC

Phone: 250.860.7077

Special Requests:


Funeral Pointers:



  • Sylvia Boyko says:

    I was very sad when I read the email of Denise’ passing. Even though we had a bit of age and location difference, I remember the many times Mom (Rose Schmitz) would comment to me that Denise stopped in and visited with her when she was still living in her home and then later on in the Watson Retirement home. Mom truly enjoyed these visits with her. By the sounds of the email I received, it appears that Denise has a strong and united family to help each other through this pain. Sincere Condolences from Sylvia Boyko (nee Schmitz)

  • graham and joanne swain says:

    Bill thinking of you and your family. You are all in our thoughts. Knowing Denise and her loving and caring thoughts and actions were important to us. We have happy memories of our times together Thinking of you all.

  • Susan McKenzie and family says:

    Our family sends sincere condolences to Bill and the family.
    With her husband Bill, Denise entered our lives through a close-knit adoption group we’ve shared with Lois (eldest Nahirney daughter) and family for close to 2 decades. I grin and shake my head at our shared experience, from the prosaic to the wacky, over those years. Denise had good manners, grace, fortitude and a staunchly positive attitude. As our kid would say, she “brought it” – to fundraising events, child-related initiatives, events, holidays, travels; dog training duties, childcare and a vast list of other supports when the family schedule brimmed over. Her trademark support, skill and encouragement were flanked by prompt sharing of photos, her smile always bright among them.
    The senior Nahirneys have loved and supported their family – touching the lives of many of us peripheral characters – throughout the voyage. Denise and Bill skillfully offered a supportive backbone without drawing attention to themselves. They knew the importance of family, and their lifelong spirit of adventure through thick and thin was infectious. I loved Denise’s descriptions: From formal teas in her childhood family home to her life as a pilot, a social worker involved in adoption, rearing a family with an Okanagan orchard in operation, travel in the far North… In the group’s 2017 trip to Southeast Asia, Denise was intrepid – her will to see, do and share prevailed in conditions that daunted others. She rode the elephant! Thank you Denise, We’ve been so lucky to have you among us, and your warmhearted, strong-minded model to carry with us on the road ahead.

  • Suzanne says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your moms passing Lois and your wife Bill. Denise was such a ray of sunshine who always had a warm smile on her face whenever I saw her. It was so wonderful so share our time together on our annual Osoyoos trip with Denise and Bill, and be there for their anniversary celebration a few years ago with your whole family. What an amazing night it was. Denise will be so missed by all. Wow I had no idea all of what Denise accomplished and was involved in during her life until I read her obituary. Quite amazing! It is so difficult and heartbreaking to lose someone that you love so much. Sending you all lots of love and hugs during this time.

  • Brian Christie says:

    Just wanted to share my condolences with Patrick and his family. Although I only met her briefly a couple of times at Pat’s place, I remember her as a happy and welcoming individual. Reading her obituary, I can see she truly led an exciting life and it is clear how much she will be missed by all of those who knew and love her.

  • Anne Bailey says:

    To Bill and all the Nahirney family, our heartfelt condolences with the passing of Denise (“Ma”). We will always remember the wonderful times we had with Denise, especially while we lived in Vancouver at the Jericho Military housing. We had many long nights of playing ‘Golf’ and cooking wonderful dinners and just laughing and chatting into the wee hours with all the family and numerous friends. Denise had so many wonderful stories and experiences that she loved to share with everyone. What a wonderful and amazing life Denise lived. She will be remembered and missed by so many that she touched. We are thinking of you all during this difficult time. Sending love……from Anne Bailey and Barry Dutka (PO2 – ret’d)

  • Anne Jackson says:

    Our heartfelt condolences Denise led a full and active life she will be missed by all. Rest in Peace

  • Jerry & Anita Aschenbrenner & Family says:

    Bill – our sincere sympathy to you and your family on Denise’s passing. Also to Woody, Chuck and Ramona. Each of you are in our thoughts and prayers!

  • Carol Mcgowan says:

    So sorry for your loss. I knew Denise only from playing bridge., Will always remember her smiling face and pleasant personality., we will all miss her,

  • Mark White and Jan Passant says:

    Dear Lynnette and family,
    Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Your event tomorrow is, indeed, a celebration of a wonderful life. We are both extremely grateful to have had a brief opportunity to meet your Mom. She instantly became our adopted “Mom” in Yellowknife and we will cherish the memories of the times we had together, eating her soup and building that infamous garage. May God bless you and hold you close at this time.
    Mark and Jan

  • Rick and Christine Fiedosiewich, Rosthern, Saskatchewan says:

    May the love and mercy of our Lord be bestowed upon you Bill and your family during this unfortunate time. I surely miss the great conversations, words of advice given with and by Denise while living and working in Fort McMurray. Denise was a genuine, unselfish, hardworking, community minded person. It was an honor to have known such a great person. Sincere condolences from our Family to Yours.

  • Heather Bach says:

    Sending our condolences to you and all of Denises close family and friends. May the brilliance and love Denise shared live on in our hearts and memories.

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