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Henry Charlesworth; professor (geology) and bon vivant
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Hyfler/Rosner
2006-12-12 19:44:04 UTC
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Henry Charlesworth
STEPHEN T. JOHNSTON Globe and Mail

Professor, husband, bon vivant. Born Jan. 29th, 1931 in
Belfast. Died June 7 of cancer on Piers Island, B.C., aged
75.

Henry Charlesworth was almost too handsome to have been a
professor of geology. He was tall and slim, although he may
have owed his slight physique at least partially to a
childhood battle with polio. He carried one arm just
slightly askew, as though permanently ready to reach for a
good glass of wine, something he loved to do. He had a
captivating smile, and he was always dapper, usually decked
out in a brown leisure jacket; a jacket that Henry wore so
frequently that it became legend around the University of
Alberta. While at the University of Alberta, you could
usually find Henry housed in his fourth-floor office of the
Earth Science building, looking north, through the trees,
across the Saskatchewan River Valley. The university
refurbished the building in the mid-80s, an improvement that
involved the installation of sealed windows. Henry was not
amused: Dogs were banned from the newly renovated building,
resulting in the loss of a fixture of the geology
department -- Henry's Samoyed, Natasha. Natasha greeted
everyone who entered Henry's lab with her smiling eyes and
wagging tail. Natasha may have been the best teaching
assistant to have ever walked the halls of the University of
Alberta: students who were terrified of Henry's
unintentionally intimidating intellect, students who were
scared witless by Henry's quantitative and analytical
approach to geology, would nonetheless make the climb up to
the fourth floor, possibly more to see Natasha than to have
their questions answered.

Despite his best efforts, Henry was intellectually
intimidating. He developed rigorous methods for statistical
analysis of data decades before most anyone else even
recognized the need for such tools. He instantly appreciated
that computers would revolutionize geological mapping in
ways that have yet to be fully realized. Ironically for a
man whose main scientific achievements involved the
development of statistical and mathematical applications in
geology, Henry's advice for a good career in science was to
"always make sure you tell a good story, otherwise no one
will listen to you."

What mattered to Henry was not, however, scientific
accolades or climbing the academic ladder. No, Henry was a
true bon vivant. No student was ever frowned upon because of
an inability to excel at geology. Henry and his wife Jackie
were quite famous for their annual party thrown for all of
the students who had weathered that year's structural
geology class. Students arriving at the Charlesworth house
expecting a quiet hour of tea and dainty sandwiches soon
found themselves not only incredibly well-fed, but also
imbibers of Henry's heady Fish House Punch. Henry's method
of mixing the punch never involved the use of a measuring
cup: Use your eye and your intuition, he advised, and let
your taste buds decide. Jackie and Henry retired to Piers
Island, on the West Coast. They built a beautiful house that
was, under Henry's constant attention, soon surrounded by a
gorgeous garden. And it was here, earlier this year, that
family and friends gathered to celebrate Henry's life. The
house was adorned with pictures of Henry as a young man on
horse back, mapping in the northern Rocky Mountains. There
were pictures of Henry's last day, surrounded by family,
most notably by a bevy of beautiful young granddaughters. In
all the pictures there was that beautiful smile, that
handsome face. Jackie made sure that we all were in
possession of an ice-cold Manhattan, Henry's favourite
drink, to toast his memory. It was a large, passionate
affair, complete with tears and laughter, good food and good
booze, and good stories. Henry would have approved.


Stephen is a former student of Henry's.
m***@student.tdsb.on.ca
2017-10-27 17:17:00 UTC
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Thank you for writing this i'm Henry's youngest granddaughter and I never got to meet him or have any memories of him. So I don't know anything about him but when I was reading this I felt I knew him all my life, so thank you again for letting me read what my grandpa was like.
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