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Bruce Aitcheson Haig passed away peacefully and surrounded by family on May 11, 2022.
He was loved and will be greatly missed by his wife Joan, son Donald (Julie Hauser) and daughters Laurie (Cal Koskowich) and Charlotte (Darren Lloyd). He was a fun, adored and unconventional Grandpa/Gramps to Elizabeth and Laurie Haig; Daniel, Larisa (Colin Hodd), Kara (Taylor Elkjaer) and Ben Koskowich; and Grace and Emily Lloyd. He will also be missed by his sister Betty Gray and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was pre-deceased by his brother Dr. T. H. Brian Haig.
Bruce was the youngest child of Dr. Arthur and Phyllis Haig. His curiosity and creativity led to many great adventures growing up in Lethbridge. Always the historian, he kept scrapbooks chronicling these experiences beginning when he was still very young. The scrapbooks eventually became daily journal entries which he began in 1960.
Bruce’s free-spirit personality eventually got to be too much for his parents who sent him to Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario for his grade 11 year. They also hoped he’d improve his French mark because for Bruce, and many others, forced memorization of verb charts at LCI was an ineffective way to learn.
Trinity’s emphasis on traditions, elitism and old money was a bad fit for Bruce. This was made worse because the only French placement available to him was in an advanced class. Bruce came up with an ingenious plan to avoid year-end exams. He signed up for the Commonwealth Youth Movement, which was sending a group of students to the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The ship set sail in May 1953.
On his website Bruce said this trip is where his ‘feeling for history’ began to develop. He also credited his French teacher for being the reason he was there in the first place.
Bruce attended the University of Saskatchewan where he played trombone in the varsity band and the Intensely Vigorous College Nine, a group that spoofed traditional marching bands.
Bruce met the love of his life Joan at a university dance in 1959. He got her attention by stating with bravado, “I dance Lethbridge Style.” They were married the following year.
Bruce and Joan and their children spent many summers camping at national parks and historic sites throughout Canada and the U.S.
Besides his family, Bruce’s great love was creating the spark in people that would make them excited about learning. Sometimes it was easier said than done. Early on, he was assigned band and orchestra programs where he joked that he sometimes felt like Harold Hill in “The Music Man” who tried to teach townspeople to play their instruments using the ‘think’ method. Whatever Bruce’s methods, they seem to have worked because many former students speak fondly of their days in band.
It was at Hamilton Jr. High School that Bruce’s innovative ideas were to take hold. He developed an outdoor education course as well as an Audio-Visual program where students could use high-end cameras, tape recorders, and other equipment.
Later he combined elements of both these programs with his love of history to create the Trek program. In Bruce’s own words: “The Trek program was an attempt to get students drawn into discovering their heritage. It involved researching the past using old journals, sketches, maps, and photographs, while at the same time an attempt was made to retrace the steps of those who had come before and to record what remained on audio tape and film…The program was on-going so that the research and film footage of one year was expanded the next. Students had the advantage of seeing the work of their own brothers and sisters as they developed the next step in the story.”
The Trek program received many awards and honours over the years, but for Bruce the biggest reward was knowing he had passed on a love of history and the pursuit of knowledge to others. Some former students have admitted that if it wasn’t for Mr. Haig, they would have quit school.
As the emphasis in education shifted back to the basics in the early 1980s, Bruce lamented the fact that students could no longer explore and learn from their environment, but would instead be “smothered in hot classrooms, cramming for tests.”
He retired early from the classroom, but he never stopped teaching.
He wrote several books on the early European explorers to this area. He helped celebrate the Lethbridge Centennial by setting up a re-enactment demonstrating how coal used to be shipped from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat via stern wheeler.
In the mid-1980’s Bruce became an extremely early adopter of the home office. He brought 18 filing cabinets with him, much to Joan’s consternation. He’d purchased his first computer in 1980, and installed data-base software to keep track of all his material.
He started his first website, ourheritage.net, in 1995. It is now part of the Bruce Haig Collection at the University of Lethbridge, along with his yearbook collection. The Bruce Haig YouTube Channel is also a treasure trove of history, nostalgia and other surprises.
Occasionally Bruce could be persuaded to take a break. He and Joan went on several trips of a lifetime including East Africa, the Northwest Passage, the Galapagos, a cruise up the Amazon River and a cruise from Japan to Alaska.
Bruce requested that a fund be established in his memory that would promote creativity and innovation in education.
Donations can be made to: The Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta, Unit 50, 1202 2 Avenue South, Lethbridge, AB T1J 0E2
Please indicate that the donation is for the Bruce Haig Fund.
A Celebration of Life will be held from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Monday, June 13, 2022 at Country Kitchen Catering, 1715 Mayor Magrath Drive South.
Education is what you remember after you’ve forgotten everything you ever learned.