KONTAK, Walter Joseph Francis(1919-2012), died peacefully on July 29, 2012 while surrounded by members of his loving family. He was born on April 13, 1919 in New York City, the eldest child of (the Late) Waldemere (Walter) Karl and Grace Carolyn (Becker) Kontak. He was raised and educated in the Bronx.
He was predeceased by his wife of 55 years, the former Margaret (Peggy) Power, an infant daughter, Mary, his older half sister, Helen and younger brother, Edward. He is survived by 10 children and 16 grandchildren: Daniel, Sudbury ON, (Jason and Julia); Michael, Halifax NS; Martha (Cameron Adams), Porters Lake NS (John, Kathleen and Donald); Margot (Morley Forsyth) Toronto ON (Rhys, Sigourney and Genevieve); Martia (David Clayton) Denver CO (Anna); John (Maria) Washington DC; Walter, Antigonish NS; Kathryn (Guy Desmarais) Sudbury ON (Francois, Guy, Jacques and Jean Noel); Peter (Jan) Halifax NS (Sean); Wanda (Ryan Deschamps) Regina SK (Adrien and Rene) and brother-in-law Sean Power (Virginia), Strathroy ON; cousin by marriage John J. O’Brien (June), Halifax NS (Sheilagh Ann) and special friends Heather, Les, Steven and Claire, Halifax NS, his sister Wanda Farabee, Mesa AZ and nieces and nephews and their children in the US.
After high school, he worked in mercantile and insurance in New York City. During this time he was then influenced by the emergence of the Catholic lay movement exemplified by the social activism of Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker; and Catherine de Hueck, the founder of Friendship House (an interracial apostolate focusing on social and economic development). He was associated with Friendship House as both a volunteer and a fulltime worker.
From 1943 to 1946, he served in the US Navy on destroyer escort duty for five North Atlantic crossings. He also participated in a convoy escort which took Roosevelt to Malta from where he flew to Yalta to meet Churchill and Stalin for the historic Yalta Conference.
Upon discharge from the Navy, he studied at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he enrolled in both the social leadership program as well as the degree program and graduated in 1949 with BA (Hons).
From 1949 to 1952 he studied abroad and completed his MA(PPE) at Oxford. Upon his return, he joined the faculty of St. Francis Xavier University. He was appointed full professor in 1963 and served as chair of the Department of Political Science between 1966 and 1984, and after a 37 year teaching career finally retired in 1989.
When asked if he enjoyed his teaching career, Professor Kontak had one answer, "I should have paid the students."
Professor Kontak performed many roles outside of the university. In the summer of 1953 he was a faculty advisor to the World University Service of Canada seminar in India. In 1967, he was a member of Nova Scotia’s 13-man delegation at the Confederation of Tomorrow Conference, and, again in 1969 was a member of Nova Scotia’s delegation to the Constitutional Conference. In 1975, he was an academic member of the Canadian Government Trade Missions to Cuba and Venezuela. He also served for 25 years as a member of the Energy and Transportation Sectors of Nova Scotia’s Voluntary Planning. On two occasions in the 1980’s he participated with the Canadian delegation to the United Nations.
Post retirement, following the 1989 Velvet Revolution, he served two terms with Canadian Executive Service Organization in Kosice, Czechoslovakia. Starting in Halifax with Canadian Association of Retired Persons’ Tax-Aide Program and later in Tucson and Denver with American Association of Retired Persons, Professor Kontak volunteered doing tax filings for low income seniors.
He was an active member of the Antigonish community and served as President of the Arras Branch of the Canadian Legion, the Antigonish Golf and Country Club, Keppoch Ski Club, Home and School Association and as chair of the Antigonish Diocesan Social Services Committee.
In 1989, he and his wife retired to Halifax. From 1996 to 1999 they lived in Tucson, AZ then, from 1999 to 2009 in Denver, CO. Following the death of his wife he relocated to Halifax, NS.
The family will receive friends at MacIsaac Funeral Home, 61 Pleasant Street, Antigonish on Wednesday, August 1st , from 2-4:00 and 7-9:00 pm. The Mass of Resurrection celebrating the life of Professor Kontak will be held on Thursday, August 2nd at Saint Ninian’s Cathedral, Antigonish at 11:00 AM. Rev. Lazarus Guria, celebrant. The family invites friends to the reception following at St. Ninian’s Place.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, 300–6009 Quinpool Road, Halifax, NS B3K 5J7 or your charity of choice.
Special thanks and gratitude are extended to the staff of Parkland Estates, Shannex Care At Home and We Care Health Services. Also, personal care providers: Danielle, Magi, Lori-Ann, Paul, Gloria, and Cynthia.
Arrangements have been entrusted to MacIsaac Funeral Home, Antigonish, NS.