We Remember


September 21, 1939 — March 6, 2024

William (Bill) Nahirney has taken off on new adventures. Bill was an engineer, private pilot, entrepreneur, and maverick, and most of all, a family man. He was known for his booming voice, crushing handshake, and back-cracking bear hugs. He was a force of nature, independent, curious, intellectual, philosophical, and caring.  Bill loved adventure and was always ahead of his time – he imagined new businesses, would research extensively, and dove into new endeavours.

Bill was born in Edam, Saskatchewan, on September 21, 1939, in a small wooden homestead – the middle child of 7 kids.  In 1944, the family left the Glaslyn farm, Bill in the horse and wagon, bringing their belongings to a nearby farm in Vawn. He grew up working on the farm with cows, pigs, horses, chickens, and turkeys. They grew their own food in a large garden, and crops including oats, barley, and wheat.  The family lived in a log house, all kids shared one room, got their water from a hand pump well, cooked with a wood stove, and used an outhouse. It wasn’t until 1955, a few years before he left home, that the farm received electricity.

In 1958, Bill left the farm community for the first time to attend the University of Saskatchewan in the big city.  With little money in his pocket, he managed to find a place to rent, and often walked because he couldn’t afford the bus.  Bill grew up doing abattoir work and wanted to be a surgeon. When he learned that surgeons work indoors, he asked how he could find a career outdoors and staff sent to him to engineering – a profession that served his analytical, pragmatic, and inquisitive nature.

Bill specialized in Mechanical Engineering and two years later his younger brother, Peter, joined him at university studying Electrical Engineering.  During Frosh Week, there was a bicycle race – the Little 500 – requiring 200 laps of the track equaling 50 miles. However, Bill and Peter had never before ridden a bike.  They were loaned one, spent an hour learning, and ended up winning by several miles.  That was Bill – diving into new challenges and going for it.

Bill put himself through university by working multiple jobs. He did construction on the Diefenbaker Lake Gardiner Dam, served drinks to the women’s side of the Ritz Bar, and drove taxi at night.  He would often sleep on campus just before classes started. He became a key member of the Judo club at university gaining his brown belt. In 1962, he graduated with his P. Eng. degree.

About this time, it was love at first sight when he met Denise. Bill was looking for a room to rent, and while inquiring, he saw a captivating woman inside the house that caught his eye.  Denise was visiting her cousin.  He was smitten from that day forward.  They married in Penticton, BC in 1962.  Soon after, they moved to Lacrosse, Wisconsin, where Bill trained with Trane Technologies, followed by jobs in Toronto and Winnipeg before setting out on his own, and settling with his family in Kelowna in 1969.  Their first child, Lois, arrived in 1963, followed by Douglas in 1966, Patrick in 1967, and Lynnette in 1971.  Dad loved and was always proud of his kids.

While in Winnipeg, Bill worked for Trane Canada in engineering with HVAC systems. To cover his territories more easily, Bill earned his private pilot’s license. He lobbied to have Denise get her pilot’s license and she became one of the first women at that time to earn her wings. Bill and Denise flew for business and pleasure across North America in their different planes over the ensuing decades.  They co-founded the Flying Club in Kelowna in 1970/1971 and Bill became a regular announcer at the Okanagan airshows.  They regularly flew from Kelowna to the prairies often landing in the field with the bull at Uncle Stephen’s farm.

Bill was a consummate entrepreneur.  In Kelowna, Bill bought JD Appliance Repair, started Apex Engineering in partnership with his brother Peter, launched Apex Helicopters in North Battleford and Saskatoon, added Alpha Marketing, then Truckers First in Brandon, MB, and continued that work in Ft. McMurray and Edmonton. As an orchard and vineyard owner in East Kelowna, Bill was on the East Kelowna Irrigation District Board, and as an engineer, built some of the first wineries in Canada. As founder and president of Apex Helicopters, they had as many as 20 helicopters that flew in northern Canada and the Arctic, performed oil exploration, polar bear tagging, and fire fighting. He also helped develop the first helicopter standards for Canada.  He had over 10,000 flight hours and loved being in the sky. To his last days, he talked about renewing his license and getting an aircraft again. In their return to Kelowna, Bill had a passion for wellness and was active in researching and developing a health-focused business.

In Kelowna, Bill was involved in the community and loved skiing as part of the Last Mountain Ski Club, supported and coached baseball with his boys, Doug and Pat, and helped design Elk’s Baseball Stadium and the water park at City Park. He was a member of the St. George’s Lodge No. 41 for over 50 years.

Among his life highlights, Bill and Denise traveled behind the iron curtain to Russia in 1976, climbed Machu Picchu in Peru in 1981, met relatives in Ukraine in 2003 (where he was regularly mistaken for Sean Connery), visited his kids many times overseas and traveled in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Yellowknife, Virginia, Hawaii, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere around the world. In 2018, Bill and Denise traveled to their grandchildren’s birth country Vietnam, where they volunteered in the Mekong at a charity girls’ camp, rode an elephant and explored Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and hiked the Great Wall in China. Bill and Denise also had a close encounter with Ogopogo in 1996.

Bill was one of the strongest, healthiest people around until age 83, fixing the roof, shoveling snow, and doing home maintenance.  A streptococcus infection in January 2023, resulted in three holes in his heart valve.  Bill beat the odds and remained at home until his last days.  He passed of congestive heart failure on March 6, 2024. His last spoken words to family were “I love you”.

Bill was predeceased by his ‘sweetheart’ Denise of 57 years who he missed and adored, and children Dr. Lois Nahirney of North Vancouver (Tom Dielschneider), Major Douglas Nahirney of Ottawa (Joanna Nolan), Dr. Patrick Nahirney of Victoria and Major Lynnette MacKay of Edmonton (MWO retired, Justin MacKay), grandchildren Natalie, Levi, Kailyn, Cairns and Blake, siblings Mary, Peter (Leela), Annie, Helen (Leroy), and in-laws Woody (Barb), and Charles, along with many wonderful nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is predeceased by his father and mother, Michael and Nettie Nahirney, brother Stephen and sister Oksana, sister-in-law Ramona (Gary) and several other family in-laws.

Bill was eclectic and multi-faceted — strong, unique, with a huge range of talents and experiences.  He was always curious and learning, and loved pontificating about the world’s problems.  He was an original and will be deeply missed.  Bill has taken off to the other side and is onto new adventures.

Should you wish to make a memorial donation in Bill’s honour, you may do so to the Vietnam Education Society, a charity to support at-risk children in Vietnam. Bill and Denise volunteered for many years with VES in Canada and Vietnam (the country where their grandchildren, Levi and Kailyn, were adopted from).

His celebration of life will be held on Saturday, March 23, 2024 at 4 pm at the Springfield Funeral Home located at 2020 Springfield Road in Kelowna, BC.

Bill loved to quote Shakespeare and classic poetry throughout his life. This one he quoted seems most appropriate here.

Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through the footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high un-trespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie McGee Jr (1922 – 1941)
Note: John Gillespie McGee Jr was an American spitfire pilot who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940.
He died over Tangmere, Sussex in 1941. He was nineteen.

Should you wish to make a memorial donation in Bill’s honour, you may do so to the Vietnam Education Society, a charity to support at-risk children in Vietnam. Bill and Denise volunteered for many years with VES in Canada and Vietnam (the country where their grandchildren, Levi and Kailyn, were adopted from).

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

Saturday, March 23, 2024 at 4:00 pm


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Vietnam Education Society Link: www.vietnameducation.ca


Service Information

Service Details

The service for NAHIRNEY, William is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, 2024 at 4:00 pm. Below you will find the map for the service location and the contact information should you have any questions.

Address & Contact for Service Location:


2020 Springfield Road Kelowna, BC


Special Requests:


Funeral Pointers:



  • Barb & Woody Aschenbrenner says:

    Love Thoughts and Prayers for you all

  • Gudrun & Andy Visinski says:

    We are so sorry to hear of Bill’s passing, we enjoyed speaking with him and your mom when out for walks or in the yard. He missed your mom so very much and now they will be together on their next journey. We wish all of you peace, strength and love to get through this difficult time.

  • Terry Chernesky says:

    We are sad to hear the passing away of a dear father and brother. My Mom and myself express our sincere condolences to the family.

  • Nettie Cherniatenski says:

    My deepest sympathy in the loss of a wonderful man that touched many people’s hearts. Cherish all the many memories he has made. Memory Eternal 🙏🏻

  • Merry Cooper says:

    What a beautiful eulogy.. I only met Bill and Denise in Singapore a few years ago and really enjoyed their company and life stories. I didn’t know about their flying exploits – how wonderful.. What a wonderful adventurous life they led. I’m so pleased to have met Bill and Denise and Lois. Merry

  • Annette says:

    I love that you’re now moving back to where the story of your parents first started. I only met him once, but he was a gentle, thoughtful man and he raised a beautiful family. My condolences. I send me hugs and thoughts everyday.

  • Byron Bailey says:

    My Sincere Condolences to the family I will fondly remember Bill and his wonderful wife – Denise. As Bill. would often quote Shakespeare, “Good company, good wine, good welcome can make good people”.
    “All the world’s a stage and all men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts”. I was blessed to know Bill and Denise. They influenced me in so many ways. They played many parts in my life. I wish I could be at the celebration of life for Bill. No doubt it will good company,, good wine, good welcome.
    Unfortunately I am in Australia returning the 24th .
    Byron Bailey

  • Cheryl & Jim Paul says:

    Our deepest condolences to the family. Bill will be greatly missed. We always enjoyed visiting with him and cousin Denise at family gatherings. I will miss his gigantic bear hugs, ones I got EVERY time he visited Saskatchewan to a Schmitiz family gathering or just a visit at other times. May he and Denise rest in peace – they are now together again.

  • Sean van der Wal says:

    I am saddened to hear of Uncle Bill’s passing. He was bigger than life. He always was full of energy and was definitely inquisitive. He loved to take a keen interest in everyone and everything around him. I really respect and revere that about him. Along with Aunty Denise, they were a great force. I can say the world has lost two great people My deepest sympathy to the family for this great loss. You are in my heart and prayers.

  • Annette Cunningham says:

    What a lovely service, you all did a lovely job. So nice to see the boys again! You’re a lovely family with great memories, well done and I know you did your father proud.

  • Katie Lynch says:

    What an amazing man. I learned so much from him as I casually pulled up a chair. He was so bright and vivacious and lit up any room he entered. God bless you, Bill!

  • Bev Tocheniuk says:

    Lois, Doug, Pat, Lynette
    The eulogy you four shared with us was beautiful. It painted a true picture of who Uncle Bill was. Our hearts, prayers and love are with you all.
    All our Love
    Bev, Carmen, Carla, Karalee , Ryan Tocheniuk

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