ALBERT FREDERICK HANS OEMING

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    - Susan Couturier
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    - John McAllister
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OEMING, ALBERT FREDERICK HANS
April 9, 1926 – March 17, 2014
The Oeming Family of Edmonton, Alberta announce the passing of Dr. Albert Frederick Hans Oeming, world renowned zoologist, naturalist, filmmaker, historian and great Canadian.
Al was born on April 9, 1925 in Edmonton to Albert and Elspeth Oeming, who had immigrated to Canada from Germany.
Al joined the Canadian Navy in 1943 and actively served on the high seas as a gunner in the South Pacific on board Canadian Naval ships Nonsuch, Cornwallis and Stadacona until February 14, 1946 when Al was discharged.
Al became a professional wrestler together with his boyhood friend Stu Hart and wrestled with Stu on the eastern seaboard working for Boston wrestling promoter Joe "Toots" Mondt from 1946 to 1948. Returning to Edmonton, Al married May Dorothy Dennistoun in 1950 while he was an ornithology student at the University of Alberta. He continued wrestling and quickly became known as 'Nature Boy', a wrestler and fiery promoter who held weekly sold out matches at the old fair grounds and more often than not riots ensued. After a decade promoting the likes of his partner Stu Hart, Chief Thunderbird, The Mills Brothers, Whipper Billy Watson, Gorgeous George, Gene Kiniski, The Cardiff Giant and Strangler Lewis, Al completed his university studies under Professor William Rowan, obtaining his Master's Degrees in Science specializing in Zoology in 1955.
Soon after graduating, Al sold his share in Stampede Wrestling and used the proceeds to fund the creation of what would become the Alberta Game Farm (AGF), which opened its gates on August 1st, 1959. Over the next twenty years, the Alberta Game Farm would become famous as a vast reservoir for vanishing species due to the breeding programs that were implemented. Exotic animals such as white rhinoceros, silver back mountain gorillas, reticulated giraffe, nilghai, Przewalski horse, Peary's caribou, Siberian tigers, snow leopards, Siberian lynx, Barahsinga deer, greater and lesser kudu, common eland and giant sable were but a few of the 166 species and 3,200 head of mammals and birds that were raised and fully acclimatized to year-round northern Alberta weather conditions.
Al promoted the AGF through the production of such feature films as "Land of the Black Bear", "Window on the Wilds", "Galapagos", "Wild Splendor", the National Geographic special "Journey to the High Artic", and the CBC television series "Al Oeming: Man of the North". Al established himself as the fondest childhood memory for countless school children across Canada from Victoria, BC to St. John's, NFLD and virtually every major settlement in the Canadian Arctic as he toured with his cheetah "Tawana" and visited classrooms and auditoriums, inspiring generations of young Canadians to appreciate their natural surroundings and respect the gifts of nature.
In 1964, Al was awarded the Everly Medal for Excellence in Conservation by the United States Government. He toured communist China in 1964 as an official guest of the Chinese government to observe the breeding programs in rare and exotic species throughout China. The tour led to many years of successful trading in exotic species between Chinese zoos and the AGF. In 1972, the University of Alberta awarded Al an Honorary Doctorate of Law degree. He has also received numerous awards and citations for his work.
In 1978, Al married Gina Mrklas and the AGF changed focus to cold climate species only. Polar Park became the successor to the AGF and dholes, sable marten, Pallas' cats, lesser panda and Chinese red fox were imported from the Harbin Zoo in Harbin, China in exchange for white rhinoceros and llamas. The business of both the Alberta Game Farm and Polar Park was accomplished by Al with no public grants or government assistance whatsoever.
At an age far past that when most people retire, Al instituted his semi-annual carriage and sleigh sales, not driven from the profit motive, but from a love of Canadiana and his deep and abiding respect for traditional craftsmanship and ingenuity. Al transported artifacts from one end of Canada to another and all the while, amassed museum quality collections of horse drawn vehicles and paraphernalia, and in particular, the largest and most comprehensive collection of sleigh bells in Canada and possibly the world.
Until the day he died, March 17, 2014, Al pursued his interests with the zeal of a young man, banding great grey owls in Flatbush in northern Alberta, clearing trails with his JD 450B bulldozer and tending to his chickens and horses.
Al leaves behind a legacy in the future redevelopment of the game farm lands and is survived by his older sister Virginia Lorenz, his younger sister Elsbeth Grant, his children Todd Oeming, Eric Oeming, Lorelei von Heymann and Thelon Oeming, as well as grandchildren Dr. Bethany May Oeming, Robert Oeming and the newest member of the family, Minka von Heymann.
The Oeming family would like to expressly thank the Nursing Team at the Mazankowski Heart Institute, Danielle B, Grant P, Lana B, Stacey G, Wallis V, Alaire Z and Janet M, Respiratory Therapists Erik, Dan and Wendy and Physicians, Dr. Debra Hammer, Dr. Naji Alhulaimi, Dr. Robert Welsh, Dr. Olga Toleva, Dr. Parent, Dr. Steven Meyer and Dr. Vincenzo Visconti.
Devoted father, doting grandfather, friend and mentor to generations of young Canadians, Al will be forever remembered.

Published in The Edmonton Journal on Mar. 29, 2014
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