Dr. Nicholas David

Obituary of Dr. Nicholas Christopher David

August 21, 1937 - Cambridge, England

January 11, 2023 - Cochrane, Alberta


Nic died peacefully in his home with his wife, Judy Sterner, by his side on Wednesday, January 11, 2023. Nic was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) a blood and bone marrow cancer in 2017 which progressed rapidly in late 2022.


Nic was born in Cambridge, England. He attended Horris Hill School and Winchester College, which was followed by obligatory National Service (1956-57). He served with the Royal Fusiliers and the Nigeria Regiment as Second Lieutenant. He then attended Trinity College Cambridge (BA Archaeology and Anthropology 1960). At Harvard University (PhD 1966) his research was on the Upper Palaeolithic of France. While a professor at the University of Pennsylvania (1967-71) he returned to Africa and directed the Upper Benue Basin Archaeological Project (Cameroon). This project focussed on ethnoarchaeology (working with the living producers of material culture to better understand the meaning and significance of production, use, discard, and reuse of materials) rather than on excavation. He taught at University College London (1971-74) and the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) 1974-78). He was a member of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Calgary from 1980 until his retirement in 2002.


Nic and Judy met at the University of Calgary in 1980. Nic taught Judy to sail, and Judy took Nic rock climbing. Until Nic’s health deteriorated they hiked, cross-country skied, and scrambled up mountains with their local family of friends (D, J, C, E, K, D).


In 1984 Nic founded the Mandara Archaeological Project which took Nic and Judy to Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria. Of all the Mandara places where Nic and Judy conducted research, Sukur (Nigeria) holds a special place. In 1996 they contributed to the inscription of the Sukur Cultural Landscape to the UNESCO World Heritage list, advocated for the Mandara Mountains International Peace Park, and in 2003 Nic created the Sukur website. In late 2014 Sukur was attacked by Boko Haram; Nic responded by founding the Boko Haram Victims fund and website. In 2017 Nic prepared a successful proposal to the World Monuments Fund and Sukur was included on the World Monuments Watch list for 2018. In 2021 their Sukur research came to the attention of the African International Documentary Festival Foundation (AFIDFF) and ICOMOS Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI). Most satisfying of all was that Nic’s last film, The 13 Months of Sukur, was shown twice at Sukur. As of 2022 AFIDFF hosts a ‘modern’ version of the Sukur website.


Nic and Judy moved to Cochrane in 1984. Nic was a member of the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee, Friends of Cochrane Ranch, and Cochrane IDEAS; he also served on the Cochrane Library Board.


Both Nic and Judy discovered astronomy in 2008 and became active members of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Nic built a 12-inch reflector telescope that he recently donated to the Society’s new Dorner Telescope in Toronto.


Alberta Health Services Palliative Care supported Nic’s transition from Foothills Hospital to his home in Cochrane. AHS Home Care and Rocky View Private Home Care provided professional and compassionate support for Nic and Judy in their home.


Nic is survived by his wife, Judy Sterner, brother Sebastian, sisters, Teresa and Eliza; children, Ivo Hennig (Victoria), Branwen Hennig, and Tilmar Hennig (Gabi); and three grandchildren, as well as eight nieces and nephews.


P.S. E says, Nic’s reported to have made the best roast potatoes in the world!


In accordance with Nic’s wishes to reduce the environmental impact of his death he had a green burial on January 21, 2023, at the Prairie Sky Cemetery, Calgary.


If friends so desire, memorial tributes can be made in Nic’s name directly to the Aplastic Anemia & Myelodysplasia Association of Canada, 2201 King Rd Unit #4, King City, ON L7B 1G2, Telephone: 1-866-840-0039, https://aamac.ca/donate/.


A Celebration of Nic’s Life will be held at a later date in 2023. Condolences, memories, and photos may be shared and viewed here.


In living memory of Nicholas David, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Cochrane, 369 Railway Street, Cochrane, AB T4C 2E2, Telephone: 403-932-4740.

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