Cyril Edel LEONOFF

Obituary
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  • "Anita and Family, I was saddened to hear of your father's..."
    - Peter Harrison
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    - Renee Rodin
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    - ALVIN FICKS
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LEONOFF, Cyril Edel
February 22, 1925 - April 7, 2016
Cyril E. Leonoff, professional engineer and historian, died in Vancouver, British Columbia on April 7, 2016 at the age of 91. His passing was sudden and unexpected, as he had been in good health, and actively writing and researching during his final days.
Cyril was born on February 22, 1925 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to William Leonoff and Rose Brotman. The family descended from Jewish Russian immigrants who pioneered small farming communities in the Saskatchewan prairies in the 1890's. In 1944 Cyril enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces, and he returned to the University of Manitoba in 1945 at the war's end to complete a Bachelor's degree in civil engineering. There he met his future wife, Faye Matlin (1927-2011). Together they graduated in 1949, married on the eve of their graduation, and came out West, where Cyril took up an engineering position with the Rivers and Harbours Branch of Public Works of Canada in New Westminster, British Columbia.
Upon completing his Masters degree in civil engineering at the University of Washington in 1952, Cyril and Faye returned to Vancouver, where he joined the one-year old engineering firm of Ripley and Associates. Together with Charles F. Ripley and Earle J. Klohn, Cyril co-founded Ripley, Klohn & Leonoff Ltd., which grew nationally in the 1950s and 1960s and internationally in the 1970s, to become Klohn Leonoff Ltd. Cyril was one of the earliest pioneer practitioners of soil mechanics and foundation engineering in British Columbia, now known as geotechnical engineering.
Throughout his thirty-six year engineering career, Cyril made significant contributions to the profession, participated in engineering societies and authored many technical papers. In 2000, he received the Vancouver Geotechnical Society Award for significant contributions to the local practice of geotechnical engineering and was inducted as a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada for excellence in engineering and services to the profession and to society.
Although he retired from civil engineering in 1985 to devote himself full time to researching and writing on British Columbia's history, Cyril remained in close contact with his firm and took great pride in its continuing expansion, first as Klohn Leonoff, and later as Klohn Crippen Berger, into a major internationally renowned geotechnical and environmental consulting firm.
Always a passionate historian, in 1970 Cyril established the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia with a dedicated group of volunteers. In addition to his role as Founding President of the JHSBC, Cyril later served as President of the Vancouver Historical Society, of which he was a member for over 60 years, and chaired the City of Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee. He was a member of the Vancouver Planning and Development Commission for many years and participated in and served on various community boards.
After extensively researching and publishing the first book on the history of the Jewish people in British Columbia, Pioneers, Pedlars and Prayer Shawls, which remains a primary source for the history of the Jewish people of British Columbia and their contribution to the life of the province, Cyril then authored two beautiful books featuring the photography of Leonard Frank (An Enterprising Life, 1895 - 1944) and Otto Landauer (Bridges Of Light, 1945 - 1980), whose work has visually documented for posterity the industrial and social development of British Columbia.
He took time from his historical research and writing to author A Dedicated Team: Klohn Leonoff Consulting Engineers, 1951 - 1991, which chronicled the first 40 years of the company he co- founded, including its close relationship with and implementation of the ground breaking work and ideas of the esteemed founder of modern geotechnical engineering, Karl Terzaghi.
Over the decades, Cyril wrote many essays, articles and other publications on various aspects of Jewish life on the Prairies and in British Columbia. He worked closely with other enthusiastic members of the Vancouver and Jewish Historical Societies to provide a comprehensive portrayal of 150 years of our province's past, ensuring that both present and future generations will be able to appreciate and understand all that our ancestors accomplished in so short a time.
Cyril received numerous awards and accolades over the years for his historical work. Two of the honours he took the deepest pride in were the BC Book Prize, which he received in 1991, and the Association of Canadian Jewish Studies Distinguished Service Award, granted to him in 2007 for a lifetime of scholarly achievement in the research and writing on the Jewish history of British Columbia and the Jewish farm settlements of the Prairies.
Cyril enjoyed various athletic and community pursuits throughout his long life, including hockey, baseball, tennis, curling and figure skating, being involved in the formation of Temple Sholom, and patronizing the fine arts. He was an avid photographer and skillful restorer of century old photographs. He derived great enjoyment from living in Southlands the past 35 years and being a member of its unique community.
No matter how much time Cyril devoted to his myriad projects, he made himself readily available to those who asked for his help, advice and historical expertise. He was always there for his children and grandchildren whenever they needed encouragement or support. He was happily married to Faye for 62 years and they were both very appreciative of being able to celebrate their 50th and 60th anniversaries with their family and friends.
Cyril is survived by his son, Blair (Betsy Brown), his daughters, Anita and Rosanne, Anita's children, Alysa Routtenberg and Cole Leonoff, his sister, Tannis and his nephew, Jerry Snukal. Dad was modest about his own accomplishments but he was extremely pleased by his grandson's academic achievements, and by his granddaughter's choice to follow in his footsteps as archivist for the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC.
A celebration of Cyril's life will be held for family, friends, and colleagues in June. In Cyril's memory, donations may be made, by mail or telephone, to the Cyril Leonoff Fund for the Jewish Historical Society, c/o the Jewish Community Foundation, 200 - 950 West 41st Ave., Vancouver, BC V5Z 2N7 (604-257-5100) or to the Jewish Historical Society, 6184 Ash St., Vancouver, BC V5Z 3G9 (604-257-5199).
Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province on Apr. 16, 2016
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