To his students, he was Mr. Diveky.
His Great Slave Lake sailing companions called him Captain Crunch.
For Janet Diveky, his longtime wife, he was George. Kind, caring, funny – with an endless appetite for adventure and knowledge.
George Zsolt Diveky, the Budapest-born educator who left his mark on many classrooms and communities across the North, died on July 2 in Edmonton. He was 78.
“George was so inventive,” said Janet, thumbing through a photo album at her home in Yellowknife during a recent interview.
The turn of each page conjures a smile-inducing memory: George strolling down a cobblestone street in Alassio, Italy; a black and white image of a dapper-looking George donning a tuxedo; a shot of the couple draped in winter gear during their first Northern adventure.
The two met in London, Ontario.
George had already travelled the world – he hitchhiked down to Mombasa and through Zimbabwe and Zambia – and was in teachers college. Janet, who was born and raised in South Africa, was working as a librarian when the pair first crossed paths at a party.
“There’s this really cute guy sitting in the corner playing classical guitar,” recalled Janet, who still remembers the Heitor Villa-Lobos number her future husband was strumming.
Soon after, as the two began dating, George, whose fascination with the North pushed him to pursue a career in teaching, accepted a job in Kuujjuaq, known then as Fort Chimo, in northern Quebec.
The two married before turning their compasses North.
“It was really exciting,” said Janet. As a “community teacher,” she said, George was encouraged to learn a few phrases in Inuktitut.
But George, keen on soaking in everything he could, immersed himself in Inuit culture.
“The first thing I did was learn the language,” George told News/North in an interview in 1999. He went on to become fluent in three dialects of Inuktitut.
George would often speak to his pupils in their own language. After practicing and practicing, he perfected igloo-making. He also introduced the community to southern culture when he performed in a production of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
George went back to Ontario to study anthropology before he and Janet, who began teaching as well, returned to northern Quebec, making their mark in Inukjuak before moving westward to Kugaaruk and Kugluktuk – where they welcomed their daughter Eva into the family. There, he served as principal. He would insist that teachers hand deliver report cards to parents in the community.
They then moved to Yellowknife, where they had a son, Andrew, before George accepted the position of superintendent of education in Rankin Inlet in the early 1980s. From 1985-88, Diveky and his family lived in Rae-Edzo. He then penned the first northern studies curriculum.
“When he finally finished it he said, ‘you know what, I wrote it I think I’d like to teach it,’ so he went to Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife and started teaching it,” recalled Janet.
“He was always very, very creative with his teaching,” she said. “He’d really put a lot of effort into developing the kid’s sense of language and where they belonged in the world. He was very, very concerned with kids’ dignity.”
He retired from Sir John at 50, but he never stopped learning. George became a skilled sailor. He took up the banjo.
“He was always drawing and sketching,” Janet remembered warmly. “He was always eager to take in more knowledge.”