Margot Smyth (Hausdorf)
Born 14/04/1934 Drumheller, Alberta; died 21/09/2021 at home in Canmore, having experienced emphysema for several years.
Only child of Paul and Mary Hausdorf (Strban); only niece of Steve Strban; only grandchild of Stephen and Maria Strban – all of Canmore AB. Margot is survived by her two daughters Cynthia Smyth of Perth, Australia and Hilary Smyth of Toronto ON, by Cynthia's husband Martin Manson, and Hilary's daughter and son, Maddie and Alex Johnston.
As a third-generation Canmorian, Margot spent her first seven years in Drumheller before her parents returned to live in Canmore -- Paul to work in the mines and Mary to care for her widowed mother, Maria Strban, as well as Mary’s brother Steve Strban, the longtime engineer on the Iron Goat whose broad face under his puffy cap still peers out the driver's window of many an image of the Iron Goat in action.
In Canmore, Margot was lucky enough to be lifelong friends with all the girls her age growing up on 4th Street: JoAnna Dutka, Sylvia Latvala (later Heath), and Leona Shandruk (later Fowers).
Margot was a stellar and motivated student, graduating as valedictorian from the Canmore High School, following four years later as the graduate with the highest marks at the University of Alberta in her Honours degree in Modern Languages (French and German). Her prize was the prestigious French Government Bursary Award (the second-place graduate only got a Rhodes Scholarship), which allowed Margot to spend two years in Paris pursuing post-graduate studies at the Sorbonne, Université de Paris IV, where she studied literature under, amongst others, philosopher Roland Barthes. Along the way, Margot spent several summers working in Banff at the BSH and, more importantly, at the legendary Banff Café, where she met her future husband, Ian Ross Smyth (1931-2012).
During their first year of marriage, Margot worked at one of the libraries at UBC in Vancouver while Ian completed his studies there. On graduation, Ian became a trade commissioner for the then-Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce and, in 1959, Margot found herself both living in Ottawa and pregnant with Cynthia. One year later the three of them left for Melbourne, Australia, as part of the Canadian High Commission there, and where Hilary was born in 1963. Ian's next posting took the family to Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) for two years until 1965, and thence back to Ottawa, where Margot took up her first paid work in nearly 10 years as a research assistant to MP Stanley Knowles. Already a fine exponent of French cuisine, she next took up a strong interest in nutrition. In 1969, Ian took up a post at the High Commission in London. Her curiosity fuelled by her time in Rhodesia, Margot completed graduate anthropology studies at the University of London.
By 1972, the family was back in Ottawa, where throughout the mid-1970s Margot worked for the then-department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In 1979, Ian took a job in Calgary for the then-Canadian Petroleum Association. Margot and Ian spent weekends in Canmore at her grandparents' old house on the four lots between 9th and 10th Streets. Some 10 years later, after she and Ian had divorced and her father Paul had died, Margot moved there full time to be near her mum, Mary, who was still at her own home on 4th Street near the river. When Mary died in 2004, Margot sadly sold the old family home (brought over from Mineside in about 1905) and moved to Cougar Creek.
From the mid-1980s on, Margot did a lot of community volunteer work, from helping out for the Canmore legs of the Calgary Olympics to teaching English as a second language while her support for the local Library remained eternal. She gardened with energy, persistence and a sense of fulfilment. She got her first driver's licence in her fifties. She walked and hiked; she smoked and she thought; she considered. Matters of the mind were important and Margot, possessed of great intellect and critical and analytical abilities, keenly anticipated major global matters such as the degradation of nature and of the environment, consumerism, and world developments politically. She proudly survived Trump. She decried complacency and comfortableness, both social and intellectual. A reader and book lover, she was always hungry for learning and understanding, mainly about other cultures and histories of all kinds.
Entertaining and cultured, if not gifted, Margot possessed a deep appreciation of opera, art, film and fashion, ever stylish but with great restraint – nobody could do 50 shades of beige like Margot.
One of her dreams was to live again in France where she felt she belonged in spirit, mind and body. She loved the sea. Yet Margot couldn't leave Canmore in the end – her roots here were too deep, with her grandparents arriving from then-Czechoslovakia in roughly 1904 to make their home and rebuild their family in Canmore after having lost their first two children to scarlet fever in Pennsylvania shortly before; with her own parents returning here to stay after seven years in Drumheller, and then with Margot’s own later life lived and completed in Canmore. She bore the weight and responsibility of being an only child well and with much grace. She was stalwart and independent. She knew her own mind. She was brave and strong. She loved her daughters and her daughters loved her. She said the most important thing she’d wanted for us was to be kind and to be free.
In later years, Margot was very fortunate to have the most generous and thoughtful neighbours providing stimulating conversation, wonderful homemade food and, not least, a watchful eye over their elderly neighbour. The family would like to express our great gratitude to Ian and Marjorie Risk, Allan and Asuka Dwyer and family, and Joelle Brouillet of Alpine Glow. Many thanks also to Russ Reynolds of Bow River Funeral Service.
"All that live must die, Passing through nature to eternity...” This quote from Hamlet was found handwritten on a scrap in Margot’s papers after she died. It reflects Margot’s reply when once asked what she thought her purpose in life was: “To feed the trees.” A noble purpose indeed, for a life nobly lived.
No service is planned, but friends of Margot are welcome to pay their respects at the Strban family plot at the Canmore Cemetery where it is planned that she be interred in April 2022.