Department of Earth SciencesWestern Science

Prof. Emeritus Aleksis Dreimanis, 1914-2011

July 09, 2011

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr. Aleksis Dreimanis (Professor Emeritus) in the Earth Sciences department. Dr. Dreimanis passed away Friday July 8th at the age of 96.

Aleksis Dreimanis
Aleksis Dreimanis was one of Canada's most distinguished geologists. He was born in Latvia in 1914. After serving his country in the Second World War, he moved to Canada to become a professor at Western in 1948. Dr.  Dreimanis was one of the world's leading experts in his chosen field of the interaction of rocks and ice. Known to his colleagues as "Dr. Till", he published over 175 scholarly papers and received the Canadian Centennial Medal in 1967.  The University of Waterloo awarded him an honorary D.Sc. in 1969.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1979, and received the most prestigious award of the Geological Association of Canada, the Logan Medal, in 1978.

Dr. Dreimanis was active in scholarly research well into his 90's, and published papers as recently as 2010.

The funeral service was held on Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 11:00 am, at the A.M. George Funeral Home, 80 Ridout Street South, with visitation from 10 to 11 AM and a reception afterwards.

The poem below was composed by his granddaughter, Maia Love, and was read at his memorial service.

Landscapes Transformed

For Aleksis Dreimanis
Composed above Ontario, Canada
by Maia Love, Granddaughter of Aleksis Dreimanis

Glaciers topping mountains
Cool and Calm
Crystallizing air to that which can be known.

Quaternary ice steadily shaping stone -
Landscapes transform.

Centuries layer upon each other.

1914, Riga, Latvia.
One birth. Study. The cliffs of the Daugava reveal a secret.

Minds move
By lecture, book, and land,
Under ceiling and under sky,
As his words imprint tympanic space.

Book and earth knowledge meet
In minds set alight
By shared collections of thought and discussion.
Words layer upon each other.

1940 Riga, Latvia.

Two minds, one alleyway proposal to keep love alive, one child.
One war.
Many separations.

Train, mountains, another child. Distance.
A university among displaced peoples.

Months layer upon each other.

1945, Displaced Persons Camp, Germany.
A letter in a priest’s robe. A re-finding of great joy. Rejoining.
A letter from Canada. A trip.

Miles layer upon each other.

1949 London, Ontario

Sifting into new soil, rising ground, a foundation for

Rock stars building excellence
Like molecules bridging forces
To structure the space
Into form.

Articles layer upon each other.
Awards layer upon each other.

Years layer upon each other.

2011 London, Ontario.
One man, a love of gardens.
One hospital.
One drift into death.

And right now, love layers upon itself.

Today, our love and respect for him layers like invisible sediment in this room.

We are left with evidence of a path, carved slowly and steadily, up peaks and through dark valleys, emerging despite the tyranny of war, to shine brilliant and humble, through many landscapes, touching many people, carving many minds.

Resilient, in his words “lucky”, in our words, perhaps, “determined”, determined as a glacier might once have been. And with the glaciers, he retreats from this mortal planet, and we are left with photos, writings, memories, 

an impression of profoundly strong gentleness,
our landscapes transformed.