Attila Chanady
Attila Chanady

Obituary of Attila Arpad Chanady


Family is grieving the unexpected and quick passing of Attila Chanady on March 22nd, 2024 in the emergency room of the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon at the age of 92. He received excellent care and almost to the end was still the consummate professor, trying, between increasingly struggling breaths, to educate us about the impact of climate change on the life of the oceans.  The last words we remember were about bioluminescence and the Mariana Trench.

Attila and his older brother, Gabriel (Gábor) were born in Budapest, Hungary to their mother, Erzébet/Elisabeth, who was a kindergarten teacher, and father, Árpád Csanády, who was an engineer. Their lives were much impacted by the war, eventually leaving Budapest on the last train before the complete encirclement of the city by the Russian army. They escaped via Austria into Germany and as refugees were boarded with the Richter family in Amberg, where Attila met his future wife, Ruth Dickel, who was visiting her sister.   Attila briefly returned to Budapest to continue training with the Hungarian junior Olympic swim team but disliked living under Russian occupation and escaped a second time to Germany.  He and many other refugees (including his brother) left a war-destroyed Europe for a better future on a crowded migrant ship, landing in in a refugee camp in Sydney, Australia. Attila was able to get out of the camp when he secured work with a private synchronized swimming team, which provided him the resources to complete his schooling. He never lost contact with Ruth, and after a few years returned to Germany to marry her in1953. Their first daughter, Amaryll, was born in Germany, and was brought in a laundry basket onto the ship back to Australia.  Two more daughters (Lilian and Barbara) were born in Melbourne while Attila attended University while working multiple jobs and selling eggs from the chickens they kept in the back yard to support the growing family.  After two years (1962-64) in Germany doing research for his PhD the family ended up back in Australia, and then moved to Dunedin, NZ, in 1966 where Attila got his first teaching job in the Department of History at the University of Otago.  After five years there Attila got a job with the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus, arriving in September 1970 and working there until his retirement in 1998, after which he and Ruth moved to Saskatoon in October 2000 be closer to family.

Attila was always a keen environmentalist, taking on many volunteer positions including President of Nature Saskatchewan. A notable retirement project was the researching and writing of his book For the Love of Nature:  A History of the Saskatoon Nature Society 1980 – 2005, published in 2009.  In his last years he became an avid and impassioned reader of environmental science and the impact of climate change and human activity on ocean health.  He was also a protector of wild creatures, maintaining a well-stocked bird feeder and going on many birding expeditions. We remember him carefully catching a mouse in the house and transporting it a few blocks to a new sheltered location to live out its life. More recently Attila  “adopted” the resident Snowshoe Hare, whom he lovingly named Hopsi, feeding him fresh carrots and reporting proudly on visits from Hopsi and his furry family members. Attila also always had an affinity for other refugees, striking up friendships with people from all over the world.  He was particularly fond of Lucho from the Golden Pagoda restaurant, distracting him from his work with animated discussion. His other favorite restaurant was Konga Café with spicy Jamaican food that reminded him of his Hungarian heritage…  and of course, he appreciated the warm hugs he received from Ellen whenever he visited.  In recent years he also loved the cooking of his grandson-in-law Colton Fehr.

Attila’s greatest joy over time became his growing family, with six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and much-loved young members of the extended Thorpe family in Saskatoon. He had much hoped to survive to the birth of the newest great-grandchildren this summer, Sofia and the twins (affectionately called Nib and Nob), although he already stated before going to hospital that this was unlikely (based on his own extensive and frequently discussed review of the impact of his heart, lung problems, and age on his life expectancy).

Attila was predeceased by his wife, Ruth, all seven of her siblings and their spouses, his brother, and his parents. He leaves behind his three daughters:  Amaryll (Alain), Lilian (Doug), and Barbara (John); six grandchildren:  Katie, Marian (Colton), Tara, Emma (Al), Christina (Brennan), and Alex(Roman); and two great-grandchildren:  Addison and Avery.

The family thanks the many people who cared for Attila, especially the staff at RUH Emergency, Herold Road Family Physicians, and Sandy from Luther Care Communities.

He will be greatly missed.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Doctors Without Borders or the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

There will be a Celebration of Life later in the summer. 

Share Your Memory of