03 June 2008

Bread and Salt for Gabriel

Like most of us, life gets away from me sometimes, and I don't have time in my day to do all the things I normally do at the time I like to do them. Take reading the newspaper, for example. Normally, I read it while I'm eating my breakfast, assisted usually by a cat or two. Simon Q is especially fond of the paper and has been known to devour sections of it before going to sleep in the middle of the editorial pages. But since I've been eating my breakfast at my computer of late, the newspaper gets read in spurts when I have time. Like tonight at suppertime. I was just finishing the salmon and fiddleheads when I pushed Simon off the obituaries page and found this.

FISCHER, Dr. Gabriel - 85, Wolfville, passed away Saturday, May 31, 2008, at his home. Born in Satu-Mare, Romania, he was a son of a respected lawyer, the late Joseph and Ella (Adler) Fischer. He graduated Doctor in Law (Doctor Juris) from the University of Debrecen, Hungary in 1946. Before becoming a professor and eventually the Director at the Institute of International Relations in Bucharest, Romania, Dr. Fischer was Chief Editor of a Hungarian daily newspaper, "Free Life", in Romania. He later collaborated and edited another Hungarian language newspaper, "Forward", in Bucharest. After the Hungarian events in 1956, Dr. Fischer was forbidden to teach or write and was confined to his native city, Satu-Mare. In 1965, he immigrated to France with his family to join his brother, Georges Fischer. In 1966, Dr. Fischer was invited to the University of Alberta as a postdoctoral Fellow in Political Science. In 1969, he began his long career as a Professor of International Relations (Political Science) at Acadia University. He implemented numerous programs and served on a number of committees. He was passionate about his teaching and his students. He gave all of himself, to his students, to his colleagues, to his wife and to his children and grandchildren. He was an avid reader, a lover of fine objects and a chocolate connoisseur. Together with his wife, he traveled extensively to countries with exciting political situations, such as the Middle East and Latin America. He was predeceased by his wife of 31 years, Dr. Lois Vallely-Fischer.

It amazes me how much can be said, and how much omitted, in an obituary. To the casual observer, you read that this man was a political science at Acadia University, the other of my alma maters, and a writer and thinker from Europe who had seen and endured much. And he was eighty-five, and had lived a good life and full. But that doesn't give even the beginnings of who he was to countless students, family members, friends, and colleagues.

I first met Gabriel nearly 20 years ago, when I was working at the Blomidon Inn in Wolfville. He came in to make a request of the guest services department of the Inn. Some Russian and Ukrainian professors--or maybe they were still USSR, I don't remember! were coming to Acadia, and they were staying at the Inn, and arriving later that day. Would I greet them when they arrived with the traditional offering of bread and salt? I would indeed, though I pointed out I could say only one word in Russian, less in Ukrainian, and had no traditional garb. That didn't matter, he insisted, kissing both my cheeks and thanking me profusely. Of all the people I met while I worked there, Gabriel and the Russian professors--one of whom gave me a little trinket of a horse, with some words in Cyrillic text on the back--were among those I remember best.

My next meetings with Gabriel were only a couple of years later, when I decided to go back to university after a ten-year hiatus. His wife, Dr. Lois Vallely-Fischer, was dean of the faculty of arts, and welcomed me into the BA program with open arms--and later, with open funds, as they kindly gave me scholarships and fellowships to continue my studies. I switched into the honours program, decided to do an overload to get the 4 year degree done in 2 years, and asked permission of Gabriel to take his course in Peace Studies. "It would be an honour to have you there," were his words. No, it was an honour to BE there, listening to and learning from this man of peace.

Gabriel was an engaging speaker, with a prodigious amount of knowledge and experience in his mind, and while sometimes he would wander off topic a bit, he always kept it interesting. I don't remember how many languages he spoke, but they were numerous--somewhere between 7 and 9, it seems to me--and he was interested in everything, including the students who showed an interest in his course. I would credit him with being one of those who shaped who I am today in my beliefs and leanings, especially because he was so non-judgmental of all he met.

His wife died suddenly (to me) in September of 2005, and I was shocked and saddened, because Lois and Gabriel were inseparable, and always seen together out and about. In a tribute to her, one of her colleagues said that 'human rights lost a steadfast champion." So it is with Gabriel's passing. We are all poorer for his leaving this world, but richer for having known him in whatever capacity.

A new tree will be planted in my memory garden for Gabriel, beside the amelanchier shrub that marks Lois's passing. United in the garden as they were in so much of their life. And maybe one day, we'll see the peace that they both strove so hard for.


  1. I am sure he would be proud that you have given him such an honorable testiment Jodi.

  2. Jodi, a lovely tribute to a man you so obviously cared about and respected. There are many people that shape our lives to some degree. But if we are very fortunate, we are allowed to be influenced by an exceptional being.

  3. He would be so thrilled to hear you write about him in such a way. And I love getting to know you better. It's no surprise that you would be such a great student. Think of how much pleasure you gave him doing the work he loved. There is no greater gift you can give a teacher than to learn! Bravo Jodi!!

  4. Hello Jodi - I just found your blog and have enjoyed reading it. The first thing I saw was the David Cook congrats on the side and I thought - "She likes gardening and David Cook - my two favorite things! That's my kind of lady!"

    I noticed in an earlier blog you photographed the lantanas. I planted them for the first time this year and they bloomed once and just kind of went blah - do you pinch those back after the bloom? I agree on the osteopermums - I bought the butterfly this year and they are superb!
    Check out my blog when you can - I'd love to hear your insight ... best wishes - Beth


  5. Beautiful tribute Jodi.

  6. Hi Jodi,
    I found your blog on Blotanical.
    I am not good with loss so may I just say "My condolences."

    On a happier note...
    Magnificent writing, fabulous photos, impressive knowledge! I'm definitely making your blog one of my favorites!


  7. A wonderful tribute, Jodi. Your post gives a much fuller dimension to a man who sounds like a great person. There is no greater compliment to give a teacher than to know that they made a favorable impact on their students' lives. He would have been proud.

  8. Dang, you almost made me cry, and reminded me that i still haven't finished my peacestudies (ok; the roles of religion in peace and conflict - nothing in the academic world have short names).

    On the bright side I now know yet another name I can look into when I get stuck.

  9. What a beautiful tribute, Jodi.

    Jenna's alma mater is known for their Peace Studies programs. I believe they were the first in the nation to offer a degree in Peace Studies. (Manchester College)

  10. Hi Jodi,

    I'm really enjoying reading your blog! I love gardening too and I make my living online (through Adsense). I am considering adding a gardening section to my website (a spiritual/pagan site) - basically just pictures and stories of the things I'm growing here in Tennessee. I have so many beautiful plants and flowers that I think people would be interested in seeing and learning about them.

    I want to ask you, are you able to make any decent Adsense money from the topic of gardening? I may do it whether it is profitable or not, simply because I love flowers, but I would be more likely to work on it if I knew it that the subject matter makes money through Adsense. Some subjects tend to be profitable while others are not, so it doesn't hurt to ask before I begin a new project.

    Keep up the great work! I love your blog and your plant pictures are gorgeous and inspirational!

    Bright Blessings,

  11. Hi again Jodi,

    I just want to say that I am using your comment form as a way to email you. My previous comment was pretty off-topic so there is really no need to approve it as a comment on your blog. I would be happy to hear back from you through email though.

    Bright Blessings,


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

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