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Mon, April 06

Obituary: Donald W. Freeman, M.D.

Donald W. Freeman, M.D., 90 years old, passed away peacefully surrounded by family at the home of his daughter Laurel in Prescott, Ariz., on Aug. 11, 2007.

He was a proud descendent of the Icelandic pioneers of the Mouse River area near Upham, N.D.

He leaves to mourn him his children, Judy Rodel (Donald), Mary Freeman (Michael Davis), James, Michael (Barbara Wirtz), Laurel Freeman (William Rice), and John (Patrice Bass); 13 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; brother Erling; sister Laurel Ann Sigurdson; brothers-in-law John Lambe (Patricia) and Ed Lawton; loving nieces and nephews; friends and colleagues.

His wife, Helen, preceded him in death in 2004.

Donald was born April 6, 1917, in North Dakota to Olafur and Sigridur (Jonson) Freeman. He learned Icelandic at his Amma and Afi's knees and considered it his first language.

After taking pre-med classes at the Bottineau, N.D., School of Forestry, he entered medical school at the University of Minnesota in 1937. While an intern at Receiving Hospital in Detroit, he met the love of his life, Helen Lambe, to whom he was married for 62 years.

At the time of their marriage in 1942, Donald was in the U.S. Army where he continued to serve as a Captain until after the end of World War II.

Following the war Donald and Helen moved to Minneapolis where Donald did his residency in obstetrics and gynecology. In 1950 he and 10 other physicians, all University of Minnesota graduates, founded the St. Louis Park Medical Center, now known as Park Nicollet Clinic. With his partner, Dr. Alex Barno, Donald conducted maternal mortality studies for the State of Minnesota. Recommendations from those studies led to a significant drop in lives lost during pregnancy because of improved obstetrical practices.

In 1966, Donald left private practice to become Chief of Staff of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Minneapolis General Hospital, now known as the Hennepin County Medical Center. In 1971 Donald and Margaret Hewitt, an obstetrics nurse, began Minnesota's first hospital based nurse midwifery program, which is still highly regarded today. Donald was also a full professor at the University of Minnesota's medical school where he greatly enjoyed teaching, did more research, published and presented papers nationally and internationally.

Impetus for the midwifery program came from observing successful and economical midwifery in Barbados, a country Donald and Helen lived in as part of a doctor exchange program. Barbados was one of many countries they visited professionally or for pleasure. Their travels included time in China shortly after it was opened up to U.S. visitors, the Soviet Union, India and Guatemala and Pakistan, where Donald volunteered with Project Hope and taught safer and more current obstetrical practices. Donald also traveled several times to Iceland, most recently at the age of 88 with his grandson, Stefan, where he continued to improve his Icelandic language skills through a University of Minnesota program.

Donald moved to Prescott in 2005 and much appreciated the welcoming community, natural beauty and musical offerings here. During his life, Donald enjoyed bird hunting, classical music, reading and Vikings football, but his family came above all. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Memorials preferred to Project Hope or YRMC Hospice. A memorial service and reception will be at the Campus Club at the University of Minnesota, Sept., 9, 2007, and interment will be at the Icelandic Pioneer Cemetery in Upham, North Dakota.

(Information provided by survivors.)

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