Geoffrey O'Grady

Obituary
26 entries
  • "Dear Mrs O'Grady, Liane and the rest of your familly. I'm..."
    - Jeanette Lynge Olsson
  • "Dear Mrs. O'Grady, Liane, Danielle and families, I am so..."
    - Cheryl Hann (nee McAdam)
  • "Liebe Mrs. O´Grady, vom Tod Ihres Mannes waren wir sehr..."
    - Martina Fantl
  • "Dear Alix; Although Geoff was in declining health during..."
    - brian karchut
  • "Dr. O'Grady was a professor of mine at the University of..."
    - James Bergen
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O'GRADY, Geoffrey Noel Ph. D. January 01, 1928 December 28, 2008 Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. Our beloved Aussie Boundary Rider" left us after a lengthy struggle with Parkinson's. He leaves an irreparable gap in the lives of his grieving family: wife Alix after 51 years of marriage; his daughter Liane (Henry) and his grandson Geoffrey Patrick; his daughter Danielle (Tim) and granddaughters Elena and Isabelle; his brother Denis; and family member Rod McCormick. According to friends and colleagues on various continents Geoff was a true gentleman. Geoff was a man of great modesty, outstanding linguistic talent and a total lack of artifice. His lifelong fascination with languages first manifested itself at Adelaide High School by his taking additional subjects in Latin, German, Russian and Hungarian. After a short banking career he ventured into the Australian Outback where he spent six years as jackaroo on a vast sheep station of 25,000 sheep, located between the Eighty Mile Beach and the Great Sandy Desert. He rode approximately 10,000 miles on horseback in the company of his Aboriginal mates, camping in the bush, and learning their rich and intricate languages and dialects. Geoff was adopted into the Nyangumarta tribe and spoke their language fluently. In 1956 the University of Sydney offered him a research assistantship. While working on his B.A. he pursued field trips to record and transcribe indigenous languages usually at his own expense. His endeavours in alphabetizing Nyangumarta resulted in a literacy program and a Nyangumarta newspaper still published. He met Alix from Riga, Latvia at the University of Sydney and they married in 1957. After Liane was born in Sydney, Geoff was granted a Fulbright Scholarship at Indiana University where he completed his Ph.D. and where Danielle was born. Three summers were spent travelling five days in a decrepit Plymouth on Route 66 to Arizona for field studies in HopiTewa. On completion of his Ph.D. he accepted a position at the University of Alberta, Edmonton and proceeded to record northern Canadian First Nations languages. In 1965 he began his long association with the University of Victoria, becoming involved in the study of various indigenous languages on Vancouver Island. Invitations followed for advice from First Nations communities in northern B.C. and Yukon. He was warmly received wherever he went. Geoff's passion remained the Australian Aboriginal languages; he developed the seminal body of work about the origins and relationships of the 250 Aboriginal languages and mapped their boundaries. Geoff is regarded as a pioneer and one of the leading scholars in Australian linguistics. Upon his retirement the Australian National University honoured him with an international Festschrift entitled Boundary Rider". In addition to linguistics Geoff loved the sea and had an extraordinary knowledge of the earth's oceans. The family enjoyed many weekends rowing among the Gulf Islands as well as outings, picnics and frequent get-togethers with friends at their home. Geoff and Alix travelled extensively in North America and abroad. Geoff will be remembered for his class and charm, his easygoing nature and gift for humour and wordplay. This allowed him to form a quick rapport with total strangers. He had a prodigious memory for phrases from a wide variety of languages and throughout his life surprised people with samplings in their mother tongue. Our thanks go to Drs. Sun and Thorpe and the Staff at RJH Emergency as well as to the thoughtful Ambulance Attendants. In particular, we are grateful for the excellent care of our family physician, Dr. R. A. Sealey and Mary Ann. A private family memorial will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson's Centre will be appreciated (813 Darwin Ave., Victoria, B.C. V8X 2X7). Friends are invited to share their reminiscences by email to www.remembering.ca ; Click on Victoria; Search for O'Grady"; then View/Sign Guestbook". 519736
Published in The Times Colonist from Jan. 3 to Jan. 4, 2009