Tribute to Alan Ruffman, FHC director, by Howard Epstein

“He did seriously live his values and show people how to make things better. And what better thing can be said about a person?”

The passing of our friend ‘Citizen Ruffman’ was a terrible way to end a terrible year. Linda and Alan have always been a fixture of intelligent, articulate, and progressive local politics. I realize that I have known Alan for almost 50 years. He was around in the early days of the Ecology Action Centre and already involved in keeping a close eye on the doings of our municipal council, which never failed to disappoint him.

Alan was central in the populist agitation to stop the proposed ‘Harbour Drive’, resulting in the saving and later renovation of what is now ‘Historic Properties’, a rare outpost of valuing Halifax heritage.

We have worked together with many others to try to resist the worst of local planning and other decisions: proposals for around the Citadel, for elsewhere in the Downtown, for intrusions on The Common, for the Offshore.

This work itself was always a joy, especially because Alan was a born non-stop talker, with much to say. He knew a huge amount about all there was to know. His resume included dozens of articles based not just on his training as a marine geologist but on his wide array of scholarly pursuits: he wrote on iceberg scour, on earthquakes and tsunamis, on the Titanic, on salt caverns used for gas storage. He worked in libraries and museums all over the world, pursuing the details of the events that caught his fancy. He did seriously live his values and show people how to make things better. And what better thing can be said about a person?

In the dozen or so years I taught Land Use Planning Law at Dalhousie I asked Alan to co-instruct with me, his experience of fighting city hall being not just exemplary but often much more successful than my own. In the years Alan ran his company, Geomarine, in a downtown stone building on Prince Street, I often visited and admired the whale bones he had collected, as well as the enormous resource of files, maps, and clippings he had to hand. It was wonderful space.

Alan and his partner Linda Christiansen

Alan and his partner Linda Christiansen celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary in 2022. In August a few friends had dinner with Alan and Linda to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary, a happy occasion. Last year one of Alan’s sisters, the actor Meg Ruffman, moved to Nova Scotia and I know Alan and Linda were looking forward to having some family nearby.

If it were still done, Alan should be put to sea in a flaming dory piled with his papers; it would be a fitting send-off for the warrior, the man, the friend.

Howard Epstein, December 2022