A legacy of community activism: Alan Ruffman dies at 82

Marine geologist and Titanic researcher Alan Ruffman is seen in the Killam Library at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Tuesday April 3, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan - image credit)
Marine geologist and Titanic researcher Alan Ruffman is seen in the Killam Library at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Tuesday April 3, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan - image credit)

Alan Ruffman, a tireless environmental activist, scientist and researcher, has died at age 82.

Ruffman, originally from Ontario, died in his sleep at his Halifax home on Dec. 28, according to his wife, Linda Christiansen-Ruffman.

The pair met while attending the University in Toronto in 1967. They celebrated 55 years of marriage in 2022.

Ruffman was a marine geologist by training and president of the Halifax consulting firm Geomarine Associates, but he had a broad range of interests.

Howard Epstein
Howard Epstein

According to former MLA Howard Epstein, Ruffman had a winning smile and a compelling presence. The two were friends.

Movement for sensible planning

Ruffman helped bring a growing national movement for sensible planning to Halifax, Epstein said.

Vernon Ramesar/CBC
Vernon Ramesar/CBC

Epstein said Ruffman was around 50 years ago at the start of the Ecology Action Centre and he and others identified sustainable energy issues as being critical in municipal decision-making.

The passion around development and planning was still evident in Ruffman until quite recently, Epstein said.

"Just two weeks before before Alan died, several of us went to city council to talk about yet another proposal to widen Robie Street, the result of which would have been more car traffic," Epstein said.

"Not much has changed over the years. Many of us, Alan particularly, have fought with city council over a whole variety of their visions and plans but often with little success."

Ruffman's love of research and scholarship were an "outstanding feature of his life," Epstein said.

Epstein remembers his friend as a "non-stop talker" who always wanted to share all the details of his latest interest.

Unknown child

It was that love of knowledge that brought Ruffman into the public eye in 2002 when he worked with DNA expert Ryan Parr to discover the identity of a child buried in Halifax who died in the sinking of the Titanic.

Deanna Ryan-Meister, president of the Titanic Society of Atlantic Canada, said Ruffman was a fellow founding member of the society 10 years ago.

She said he had a wealth of knowledge. He was passionate about his beliefs and in sharing his knowledge of history, local marine history in particular.

In 2013, Ruffman wrote the book Titanic Remembered: The Unsinkable Ship.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced but his wife said a celebration of his life will be held after the winter.

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