Friday, 14 February 2014

Tribute to Peter F. Chernoff (1934 - 2014)

Born May 19, 1934, died February 10, 2014.
Obituary in the Regina Leader Post, Feb. 13, 2014

Peter was a teacher, a family man, the Best Man at my wedding, and a friend.

His family was academic, although his parents never completed public school. Peter and his siblings Walter and Mae (Popoff) all graduated from college, and his wife to be Irene Smorodin was Mae's college roommate. We first met in the mid-1950s while students at the University of Saskatchewan.

We were active members of the Saskatoon Doukhobor Student Group which supported The Inquirer, a monthly publication that I was editing and publishing. Peter submitted 2 letters to the editor:
  • November 1956, page 10 — Believes That an International Police Force Would Solve the Problem of War
  • October 1957, page 7 — Variety is the Spice of Life: Enjoyed the wit and humour of the column Dasha.
Peter Chernoff in sweater with 'E' for Education.
In September 1957, we attended the 4th annual Intergroup Relations Conference for young adults in Banff, Alberta conducted jointly by the University of Alberta and the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. We interacted with members of many ethnic groups (photo right). One Resource leader William G. Dixon explained that the Sons of Freedom zealots are ‘a test of the Canadian conscience.’(Cover and story, The Inquirer, September 1957, page 3) Photo right from page 202, Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers (2002).

In December 1957 (photo below), we participated in a joint Doukhobor project: Building Bridges of Understanding. Independent Doukhobor youth from Saskatchewan traveled to British Columbia to meet Community Doukhobors. We conducted panel discussions, slide shows and talks of a trip to Europe, a stage play, banquets, socials, tours, visits, and choral performances. The photo below shows Peter (3rd from left in glasses) and me (5th) before a thousand people discussing: ‘Where Do We Go From Here? — The future of the Doukhobor movement.’ Peter was proud to be the Announcer in a play called: ‘A Man and his Conscience.’

1957 Doukhobor Youth Conference. Chernoff 3rd from left.
Peter contributed 4 pages to my last big book documenting his family history: ‘A Patriarch and His Family During the Early Homestead Days,’ Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers (2002), pages 198-203; and he wrote the sidebar on page 201: ‘Lessons I learned from 11 September.’ For the introduction I wrote:

‘As a concerned Doukhobor, Peter told me that his grandfather George often said that any fool could destroy something, as in a war, but it takes clever people to build things. It seems that our 21st century nations are still far from being clever. In preparing for the Doukhobor Centenary in 1995, Peter wrote me: “The Doukhobors really did write a chapter in the history of mankind on this planet, even though they were ahead of their time. The time will come!”, he said….’

The ongoing Olympics reminds me that his son Rob Chernoff was a star swimmer athlete at the University of Calgary who represented Canada at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Peter was a man with a vision and hope, of wisdom who has shown the way. If Peter was still here today, he might say this to us about his world:

My world, the one I created, is not perfect, but it is good enough. One day I will leave the light. Right now I want to Will something to you — I Will you my world as an inheritance. Please keep it healthy and beautiful, expand it, enrich it, and enjoy it. Do not be sad when something good goes by. Acknowledge it that you have had it in your life. Enjoy light and life! We accept your Will and the wisdom to carry it forth in our lives. My dear friend, Peter, you have made your mark on this earth for family, friends, neighbours, for all of us. With your exemplary Spirit Within, you have shown the Olympian pathway to love, beauty, friendship, and joy.

Rest in peace, my friend. Rest in peace.

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