Obituary of Albert Lloyd Kahanoff
Al Kahanoff died on May 5 at the age of 91. He was the last of four children born to Minnie and Abe Kahanoff, first-generation Canadians who fled the antisemitism of Eastern Europe for a better life on the Prairies.
Born in Winnipeg, MB, Al’s early years were spent during the Depression in little towns of northern Saskatchewan (Mildred, Canwood, and Prince Albert). It was during these years, following in his mother’s footsteps, that his sense of moral obligation to others first appeared. This moral compass would become his guiding principle in life, in recent years, it led him to do monthly deliveries of homemade cookies, “Al’s Pals,” to sick friends, widows, and the staff at Hospice Calgary, but it took a while to fully form.
Throughout his teens, Al found himself in trouble…a lot, often skipping school to hustle people in pool halls, and on more than one occasion was brought home to his mother by police (famously he once “accidentally” stole a neighbour’s boat). Easily bored, by the time he was 30, Al had held 22 different jobs in every sector imaginable. These varied experiences, honed in him the ability to talk to anyone from any walk of life, and he always did, establishing lifelong friendships with people from different cultures, religions and political views. (A staunch socialist, his closest friends included right-wing conservatives.)
Amongst his many jobs was proofreading for the local newspaper. There he discovered a love of the english language that motivated him to go to university to become an English teacher. (It also compelled him to correct everyone’s grammar for the rest of his life!)
During grad school at the university library, Al met Bernice Plato– “I followed in a pair of legs and came out a smitten man.” The two married in 1969, had two children, Sharon and Tanya, and shortly thereafter, bought the big house on the hill into which they poured their sweat equity. Al laid 6,633 bricks in their idyllic backyard and bathed their home in a roseate glow through the many stained-glass windows he created.
For the next 25 years, their generous, warm hospitality turned their home into a hub for family, friends and all their social groups, the Gourmet Club, the Omega Investment Club (which only earned enough money to go out for Chinese food once a month), and the Bridge Club (through which Al ultimately achieved his Life Masters). Their circle of friends became so big eventually they had to host two annual Christmas parties! But Al loved his old friendships best, many lasted more than 60 years, and he worked hard at maintaining them.
Most of those old friendships were forged at the Calgary Board of Education, where Al was a teacher, administrator and consultant, a career he pursued for over 35 years. During his tenure he brought the first chess club into high schools, started a school for gifted students, introduced more Canadian content into the English curriculum, developed a peer-nominated award for outstanding service, helped women teachers get equal pay, and had their names added to the retirement list for the first time (so that they, too, were recognized for their service.) He was particularly proud of his significant role in having Jim Keegstra investigated and fired for teaching antisemitism in the classroom, and for his work sitting on the English Council of Alberta, as well as various other committees to set guidelines, negotiate salaries and settle strikes.
The list goes on and on, but when a beloved retiring teacher told him that HE was the reason he became a teacher, his most meaningful contribution was acknowledged. He excelled at bringing dead poets and writers to life in the classroom and was famous for standing on desks in rented out costumes playing the role of the king in every Shakespearean drama. On his 85th birthday, he received a call from three retired ex-students who claimed it was the play he put on with their graduating class that bonded them for life.
In addition to being an excellent teacher, Al was a natural athlete. As a boy, he won various track and field and swimming ribbons, was a basketball star, and at fourteen was instrumental in getting a boxing club started in Prince Albert. As an adult he played every racket sport imaginable, coached basketball, started a school for competitive athletes, and after he retired in 1986, took up golf and became a long-time member of Inglewood Golf Club. The love and bane of his existence, Al was a nearly scratch golfer, regularly scoring under his age, as he was quick to remark.
Al liked anyone who made him laugh, and just about everyone did. A lover of humour in all its forms, witty, ironic, silly and absurd, he was above all else, hilarious. Gallows humour was a particular strength, and throughout his life, he used it to write many funny (and touching) obituaries. Sadly, he left behind only the first line of his own; it was shaping up to be a good one:
“Dead, at last. No Longer Sentient.”
Al was predeceased by his brothers, Arnold (d. 1919), Sydney (d. 1980), and Passey (d. 2021). He leaves behind his wife, and daughters, his massive circle of friends, and his greatest joy, his grandson Emerson. The world feels smaller now that he is gone, though his huge presence is writ large on all who knew him.
We’d like to see Al’s legacy live on, if you would like to make a donation in Al’s name, you can do so here: https://www.hospicecalgary.ca/kahanoff/. Condolences, memories, and photos can also be shared and viewed here.
In living memory of Albert Kahanoff, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Fish Creek, 14441 Bannister Road SE, Calgary, Ab t2x 3j3, Telephone: 403-256-9575.