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Born: Jun 13, 1933

Date of Passing: Nov 25, 2019

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June 13, 1933 - November 25, 2019

On November 25, 2019, Alexander Everett Rattray passed away in his adopted city of Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
He will be deeply missed by his loving wife and partner, Angela Luvera Rattray; daughter Jennifer Rattray, husband Stacy Dainard and grandson Tristan; daughter Alexandra Rattray; brother Donald Rattray and family, and many friends, colleagues and former students around the world.
He was predeceased by his parents, G. Wilson and Holly (Forster) Rattray.
The world will be a little smaller without him. Alex was principled, creative, enthusiastic and intelligent - a gentleman and a gentle man who recognized the similarities in our natures rather than the differences. Born in Winnipeg of Scottish heritage, he was raised in St. James and Fort Garry and attended Viscount Alexander High School before earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of Manitoba. After receiving one of the first Canada Council Fellowships in landscape architecture, he pursued a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at the University of Pennsylvania, winning the School of Fine Arts Award. On graduation he accepted a position with the Boston and Worchester Redevelopment Authorities before becoming chair of the Lowthorpe Department of Landscape Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1969, he was invited by John A. Russell to return home to create and lead a program of landscape architecture at the University of Manitoba.
Despite opportunities at universities including Berkeley, Alex was committed to Winnipeg, the Prairies and his students, choosing to spend his career at the University of Manitoba where he was a gifted professor with a passion for the living landscape, process and design, and accessible public space. He and Angela were co-directors of the Italian Studies Program, and for a decade they introduced students to the history, culture, art, architecture and landscape of the Brenta Valley region. On retirement, he was named a Senior Scholar and then a Professor Emeritus, in recognition of his distinguished service.
Alex's natural curiosity led him to explore the world, visiting, lecturing and teaching in countries from India to Indonesia. He was a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Edinburgh, Melbourne, Toronto and New Mexico, and an Advisory Professor at the Chongqinq University of Architecture and Engineering and at Southwest Jiaotong University. He encouraged international students to study at the University of Manitoba, helping them to find housing, and picking them and their families up at the airport in his 1968 Mustang so that after a long and sometimes harrowing journey, they were warmly welcomed to Canada.
Alex was President, a Fellow and Life Member of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, receiving the President's Award of Excellence. He was President and a Charter and Life Member of the Manitoba Association of Landscape Architects and an advisor to the International Federation of Landscape Architects. He served on numerous national advisory boards and committees, including chairing the National Capital Commission's Advisory Committee on Design. He challenged his profession, his students and himself to be more responsive to the environment and to the community.
Much more than the sum of his professional achievements, Alex was a wonderful father who read Winnie the Pooh, The Chronicles of Narnia and Paddington Bear to his young daughters, took them tobogganing and skating at Assiniboine Park, helped them with school projects, organized home National Film Board film festivals complete with tickets and popcorn, and supported them throughout their lives in every way possible. He was a devoted grandfather never too busy to play school or restaurant or watch Tristan play hockey or soccer. He regarded his son-in-law as a son. He volunteered on parent councils, church committees, the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation and with the Parkinson Society Manitoba.
In addition to his family, friends and profession, Alex loved reading, politics, sports, sailing, northern canoe trips, classical music, Scotch whiskey and Welsh corgis. And one of his favourite projects was one of his first, a small park designed with neighbourhood children in Providence, Rhode Island. After bringing their ideas to life, the children described their enchanted garden:

"The garden was created when a star fell and
all the pieces became bits of the garden. It is
the power within the star that made the
garden magic ... Whenever everyone enters
the garden they become playful."

With Alex's passing, we like to think there
is one more twinkling star in the sky.

Beannachd Dia dhuit.

A funeral service was held this week in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
Thank you for the many messages of condolence from friends, colleagues and former students noting Alex's profound influence on their lives, the value of his mentorship, and his impact including from the l'Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia.
If you so wish, donations may be made to the Alexander E. Rattray Scholarship in Landscape Architecture at the University of Manitoba. Gifts may be made by calling 204-474-9195 or online at: or sent to the following address: Alumni and Donor Relations, 200-137 Innovation Drive, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 6B6. Cheques can be made payable to the University of Manitoba.

As published in Winnipeg Free Press on Nov 30, 2019

Condolences & Memories (13 entries)

  • My deepest sympathy to you, Angela, on Alex's passing. I wasn't aware of it until the obituary was posted in the Free Press today. He was a faithful member of Westminster Church and supportive of my ministry. It was always a pleasure to greet the two of you at the door after the service on Sunday morning. I was sad to hear that you were leaving Winnipeg but quite understood his desire to support you with a time together in Italy after you had given him such support here in Winnipeg. Blessings. - Posted by: Robert Campbell (Minister) on: Nov 21, 2020

  • Dear Alex Rattray Family… Alex was often the gentle provocateur and to me, and perhaps all five or six of us, his first students at RISD in 1965, the best thing that ever happened to us. We were nineteen years old. He took us and opened our eyes to a subtle optimism about what ‘could be’ in a troubled world. He encouraged us every step of the way through such optimism, which was very much about each of us finding our own fit. What a great thing to be able to give or convey - a sense of ‘we’re in this together’, always deeply interested in where our thinking was leading us. Alex never seemed to have a preconceived idea of what solution was ‘best’, but waited patiently for the little twist we would take - the unexpected solution, and then talk about how great the process had been. Whenever I talk with friends about this era, I mention this wonderful man and the dedication he seemed to have to us (our lives). Joel Boodon, RISD BSLA 1968, Providence RI - Posted by: Joel Boodon (Former student RISD) on: Dec 09, 2019

  • Alexander E. Rattray was one of my life’s heroes… I can count those on a few digits of one hand. He groomed me for Landscape Architecture from the time I was in Grade 11, mentored me through Environmental Studies, and promoted my wanderlust. I believe he may have been a factor in my post-Berkeley work with Kiley-Walker in Vermont in the ‘80s - i.e. Peter Walker (no the other Peter Walker!) had been a classmate of his at the University of Pennsylvania. He was responsible for my involvement as an Adjunct Prof at the U of M for fourteen years through the ‘90s. Alex, Angela, and Jazz spent quality time with Bette, Digby and I until our move to Nova Scotia in 2007 – I still miss the comradery, laughs, great food and wine. My heart goes out to you and the family, Angela. - Posted by: Barry Yanchyshyn (Friend) on: Dec 09, 2019

  • Dearest Angela, deepest condolences from all of the staff at Martha Street Studio. We have fond memories of Alex coming to the studio on many occasions with you, and are sad to hear of this great loss for you and your family. - Posted by: Kristin Nelson ((Director of Martha Street Studio)) on: Dec 05, 2019

  • Al was department head at U of M Landscape Architecture when I was getting my LA degree in the 90's. I remember him as intelligent, funny and a complete original. I have really fond memories of him, including the time he spent with me when I was making the decision to study in his master's program. My sincere condolences to you, Al's family. - Posted by: Doug Shearer (his former student) on: Dec 03, 2019

  • Angela, Jennifer and Andra, I'm so sorry to hear of Al's death. He truly was one of my favorite people in the world and welcomed me, the youngest cousin, into the family fold when I moved to Winnipeg. I was the beneficiary of a vegetable plot in the back garden, ballet and choral concert tickets, loan of the '68 Mustang (wow), an introduction to Paddington Bear and most of all, his kindness and sense of humour. It is wonderful now to read of his life and accomplishments and all the people he touched. The Lowcock family is thinking of you and sends love. - Posted by: Janet Lowcock (cousin) on: Dec 02, 2019

  • So sorry for your loss Angela, and family. Al was a lovely man. Karen & Hugh Rice (Winnipeg) - Posted by: Karen Rice (Collin) (Friend) on: Dec 01, 2019

  • We’re so sorry to learn of Alex’s passing. We recall meeting him through Angela and he was a lovely man. We hope your tears will eventually dry and leave you with nothing but fond memories and laughter. - Posted by: Cheryl & Jeff Hildebrand (Friends) on: Dec 01, 2019

  • Dear Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear father, he was an accomplished and talented individual. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. AnnaMaria - Posted by: A. Toppazzini (friend) on: Dec 01, 2019

  • Al and his young family were regular visitors at our house at Christmas - we had stacks of slides of him puffing on his pipe with a good parents kept up with Al’s academic pursuits including time in USA. Our paths crossed in the Faculty of Architecture (in the Bison Bldg) he in Landscape as Dept Head and I was next door in a support capacity in City Planning. I heard he and Angela were living overseas thru a mutual friend. My condolences to Jenna and Alexandra - his brother, Donald and Angela (whom I have not met), extended family and friends. Sorry about the Mustang - my brother Jamie was teaching me to parallel park (circa 1971) and we used Al’s precious car for practise.... I had trouble backing into park and ‘clipped’ the left rear bumper.... I had the dubious task of knocking on their door and asking him to come move the car as I was making every move worse. Yikes...but he took it in stride, at least in front of me. a true gentleman... - Posted by: Cathy Murray (Waterford neighbour) on: Nov 30, 2019

  • Laurie Lamb and I often fondly chat about Alex and our days as LA students under the “Rats” tutelage. When you moved to Italy we missed your Wolseley neighbour visits and nightly Corgis walks. Our thoughts are with you Angela. - Posted by: David Wagner (Friend) on: Nov 30, 2019

  • Alex was a great friend to my late husband, Michael Hough, and myself. Just this week we have been viewing a 1975 video, organized by Alex, of Michael lecturing to U of M landscape students. Other more personal memories - a cold March Winnipeg stay for one of Michael’s visiting lectureships, a 2-family trip to France in 1980 - 3 girls Jenna, Alexandra and Fiona experiencing their first basic 2-footprint toilet! And my last visit with Alex and Angela and the corgi (regret I forget his/her name) in Bassano the summer after Michael died. Love and sympathy to Angela, Jenna and Alex. - Posted by: Bridget Hough (Friend) on: Nov 30, 2019

  • My deepest condolences Angela .... nothing but the fondest of memories of Professor Rattray leading Team Canada in our 1987 studio in Chongqing, Sichuan ... Al volunteering his seat in the van and sitting on the floor so just one more purchased chair could get squeezed in .. eh Herr Thomas ... haha ... Madame Judith ... Safe travels Al - will miss your sharp wit and kindness ... Andrew Smith - Posted by: Andrew Smith (Former student/Friend/China hand) on: Nov 30, 2019

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