June 26, 1927 – January 6, 2021
Our family is heartbroken to announce the passing of Chris Szaszkiewicz January 6th, 2021 at the age of 93.
Chris is survived by Alina, his wife of 38 years, his brother Joseph (Barbara); his sister Helen; his six children Jean (Helene), Andre (Anne), Marie (Orlando), Charles, Paul (Peggy), Helen (Ian) and their mother Cecile, Alina’s children Richard and Mark (Eva), and his 14 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Chris’ family was forced to flee their idyllic home in Ros, Poland September 1st, 1939 – the start of World War 2. His father Antoni, an expert in languages, had been recruited to help Poland with negotiations and later to British Intelligence to work on the Enigma project deciphering military codes. Chris’ mother, Marie (nee Potocki) took charge of the family’s harrowing escape from their estate at Ros (now Belarus), and managed their movements throughout the war as the family relocated from Paris to Touraine, Salies du Salat, Hyeres, Langogne, Bagnoles des Bains and eventually to Challe les Eaux where he, his older brother George and his younger sister Helen went to school at Villars des Lans near Grenoble.
Being constantly on the move, attending different schools, and learning to live under occupation had a big impact on Chris and his siblings. Perseverance, resourcefulness and compassion would serve him and his siblings well, but these were also character traits earned at a price. Chris lost friends and classmates to the ravages of the war, and eventually his youngest sister Marie (Bobo) to sickness at 12 years old just as the war was ending in 1945.
Chris’ younger brother and sister, Joe and Helen, describe this difficult time and the sacrifices required only when pressed, choosing instead to highlight the necessity for joy and humour. A favorite story, now legendary in fact, is of Chris and his older brother George skipping school to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea – a valued life lesson about priorities not lost on the next generation!
Chris was sent to Scotland to complete his military training in Edinburgh and graduated just as the war ended. He was later accepted at the London School of Economics where he completed his undergraduate studies before emigrating to Canada in 1951 joining his family in St. Paul, Alberta.
Chris met his wife Cecile Langlois at the movies. They settled in Bonnyville and had six children together, built a house and built a cottage. Chris also built his accounting practice while working on his Chartered Accountant at nights, hunted ducks, served as the head of the Chamber of Commerce and the Agricultural Society, went to church, to the rodeo, to cattle auctions, to Pontiac hockey games and dragged his kids in sleighs across frozen lakes behind his Ford Meteor.
The family moved to Edmonton in 1973 where Chris worked to rebuild a thriving practice in St. Albert. He was able to renew his commitment to tennis, although the transition to Malmo’s asphalt from the lawn courts of his youth must have been a difficult one. Chris and Cecile divorced, Cecile moved to Montreal, and Chris later met Alina Maslowski to whom he was married until his passing.
Cross country skiing, tennis, canoeing, gardening and symphony dates were passions he shared with his children, Alina, her children and later their grandchildren and great grandchildren. Chris’ family seemed to grow again exponentially with the house in Malmo always open to extended family and friends – all welcome, so long as you didn’t sit in his chair!
He also shared his fondness for numbers and horses (he had learned to ride horses in Poland) on visits to Northlands where master classes in permutations and probability were offered at a nominal price to ‘investors’. Here too life lessons were available to those attentive enough to listen.
An avid reader, Chris loved the Western Catholic Reporter, the Edmonton Journal and his weekly Racing Form. Car rides to hockey, ringette, orchestra practice and piano recitals were simply backdrops to CBC radio broadcasts from around the world. Bespoke book gifts at Christmas and birthdays were chosen with purpose.
Intellectual curiosity, genuine interest and empathy for others, and a strong work ethic made for a man that seemed above it all. He lived his beliefs with humility, accepted life’s twists and turns with grace, and set the bar high for those of us who face his empty chair.
The family is thankful for wishes received from colleagues, friends and family, and especially for staff at the Grey Nuns Hospital where Chris received exceptional compassionate care, even including an impromptu violin solo by staff that brought him immeasurable joy and comfort even in the most trying of circumstances.
Chris was passionate about his favorite charities including Aid to the Church in Need (Canada) Inc, The Polish Canadian Humanitarian Society and CNEWA. Chris would have been pleased to know his charitable commitments inspired others to consider meaningful giving.
Cremation has taken place and due to COVID restrictions, a celebration of life will take place at a later date where we can gather together to remember and honour Chris.