Hugh Dempsey (1929-2022)

The Celebration of Life service was held this week at Fort Calgary for Alberta Historian Hugh Dempsey. His contribution to local history is inestimable but the Calgary Gay History Project would like to reflect on a personal connection.

Hugh Dempsey in 2016. PHOTO BY CHRISTINA RYAN /Calgary Herald

Thirty years ago this autumn, I {Kevin} took a University of Calgary class, from Professor Dempsey: Canadian Studies 311, Indians of the Canadian Plains: an interdisciplinary approach. In 1992, Dr. Dempsey was recently retired from the Glenbow Museum, and his reputation was impressive.

The class really stuck with me; in fact, it was the only history course I took in my degree program. My term paper was about homosexuality in Plains Indian culture. I remember being very nervous about working on the topic because of taboos at the time, but Dr. Dempsey was unfailingly polite and supportive. He gave great feedback too; it turned out he knew a lot about the subject.

In 2020, I wrote to him as editor of Alberta History magazine (which he edited for more than 60 years!) and sent him a copy of my book, Our Past Matters.

I explained, “It wasn’t until I was 40 that I discovered a deep interest in history—almost by accident—and it has become a significant part of my life. I was just one of your many students, but I wanted to let you know that it was your class which planted a seed and eventually culminated in this book.”

He then dutifully read my book, and reviewed it in the next issue of the magazine. I was so pleased.

One never fully knows the ripples we cause in other people’s lives. I am very thankful that Dr. Dempsey affected mine.


One response to “Hugh Dempsey (1929-2022)

  1. sam starchild

    offers you hugs

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