Dr. F. Alexander Herbert died peacefully on Saturday July 11, 2015 at the age of 85 years, following a long struggle with complications of Parkinson’s disease, borne with great courage and few complaints.
He is survived by his beloved wife and loyal life partner of 60 years, Margot (nee Good) and five children: Elizabeth Herbert (John Ferris) of Calgary; Megan Beamish (Leon Mowchun) of Winnipeg; Frank Herbert (Wendy Fasken) of Oakville, ON; Jim Herbert of Toronto and Kate Herbert (Jeff Battigelli) of St. Albert, as well as eleven grandchildren: Morgan Herbert, Owen and Edmund Ferris; Nigel and Sullivan Beamish; Fallon Walton, Margot and William Herbert; and Graeme, Patrick and Charlotte Battigelli. He was pre-deceased by his parents, Frank and Nora (Hogg) Herbert of Winnipeg and a sister, Elizabeth Roberts of Victoria. Alex’s parents provided a warm and supportive home throughout his childhood and university years, which he considered crucial to his later success.
Alex grew up in Winnipeg and remained a loyal Manitoban throughout his life. He attended Kelvin High School, and the University of Manitoba where he graduated from the Faculty of Medicine in 1955. He later completed a Fellowship in Pulmonary Medicine at the New England Center Hospital, Tufts University, Boston, Mass. The years in Boston were life altering for Alex, as there he was exposed to some of the greatest medical minds of the day. He considered himself incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to study and learn in such an atmosphere, and he absorbed the experience with much enthusiasm. The rigour and professionalism of these senior Boston doctors created a standard against which he measured himself for his entire career. The whole family (now including three small children) also enjoyed the east coast experience and Alex became as knowledgeable about the history of New England as many of its natives.
In 1962, Alex, Margot and their growing family moved to Edmonton when Alex accepted a position with the University of Alberta Department of Medicine. During that time he also worked as a chest consultant at the Charles Camsell Hospital, a role which reflected his long-held interest and concern for the health of Aboriginal children (this dated back to his student days, when he worked as a medical summer student in northern Manitoba in what was then known as the Indian Health Service). His work at the Camsell took him on a number of wonderful trips beyond the Arctic Circle, to follow up with his young patients.
During his years in the Department of Medicine he collaborated with colleagues on a number of research projects, which resulted in the publication of numerous papers in leading American and Canadian medical journals. At various times he also served as chair of the Alberta Thoracic Society, as well as Chair and Medical Director of the University of Alberta /Federal government Nurse Practitioner Program, of which he was a strong supporter. He became particularly interested in occupational problems related to lung health and in 1983 was an active participant in the Energy Resources Conservation Board Inquiry into the causes and problems raised by the Lodgepole oil well blowout near Drayton Valley, Alberta. In 1989 he worked for several months as a researcher in the Department of Environmental Hygiene, University of Goteborg, Goteborg, Sweden.
Alex formally retired in 1995 as Emeritus Professor of Medicine, but continued to be involved in the practice of medicine for a number of years.
Alex was immensely proud of his family and took great pleasure in the many personal, educational and professional accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. His unfailing support, his ongoing interest in each of us, his wise counsel, his generosity and unconditional love were felt by the entire family. He was an active bird game hunter and outdoorsman; a sports fan; a self-described “terrible” golfer; a long-time patron of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, an avid reader on many topics; and a life-long learner. He was a man with insatiable curiosity about the world around him, a trait passed on to each of his children. He had a great sense of humour, and a genuine ability to laugh at himself. Perhaps he will be best remembered as a marvellous raconteur, whose stories amused many colleagues over the years, as well as all of his children and grandchildren. He will be terribly missed.
A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2015 at Foster & McGarvey Funeral Home, 10011-114 Street, Edmonton.