John and Eva Kende

Leslie, Ruth, John, Eva Kende
Written by Canmore Museum

Although both were born in Budapest, Hungary, they did not meet until several years after they came to Canada. John, born November 17, 1936, has strong memories of wartime, but Eva, who was born September 1, 1941 has only hazy memories of that time. They both left Hungary following the revolution in 1956. The refugees went first to Austria and in Vienna they tried to find out which countries would accept them. John had surveying training and experience so he felt he could get work in that field in the huge country of Canada. Eva and her mother were advised by Eva’s uncle to come to Canada also. Once accepted, each person was given a physical examination and sent to a group camp to await being assigned to a ship wherever it was available. John sailed from Genoa, Italy in January, 1957, while Eva and her mother left from Bremerhaven, Germany, in February, 1957. All landed at Halifax, disembarking at Pier 21, which has recently been refurbished and opened as an historic site. Eva sent some of the objects brought with them, such as embroidered linens, to Pier 21 to be used in their displays. Each boatload of people would be sent to a different city so John’s group was sent to Vancouver, and Eva’s to Winnipeg. 

John obtained work almost immediately after arriving in Vancouver, surveying and mapping various projects such as the DEW Line, the Radium Highway and mapping for COMINCO near Princeton, B.C. If there was a lay-off from work, he sold donuts from door to door. Then the company for whom he worked was sold and he moved to Toronto where the head office of the new company was situated. In Ontario, he worked on Highway 401, did mapping for mining companies and mapped infrastructure inventories for several cities. Old city maps were too indefinite about the locations of property lines, sewer and water lines, etc., to be useful when rebuilding was necessary.

Eva, fifteen at the time, got a job in a factory in Winnipeg at fifty cents per hour, but when a social worker heard about that, she said, “No, you should finish your education.” Eva credits many helpful teachers and her classmates for helping her to learn English as she coped with high school. Also, her stepfather (her mother remarried in Winnipeg) was a great help. A Manitoban, he loved to talk politics, history and hockey, and often talked with Eva. After finishing high school, she went to the University of Manitoba and obtained her B.Sc. in 1963. Then she moved to Toronto where she and John met. She worked in medical research at Princess Margaret Hospital, Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. 

After their marriage in 1964, Eva and John moved back to Winnipeg where John began to get into management in surveying and mapping, and Eva continued in medical research at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba. Their son, Leslie, was born in Winnipeg July 20, 1968. 

Their next move was to Edmonton, a promotion for John, where he was mapping coal deposits for the coal subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway. He also worked on the Athabasca Delta Project, mapping changes there following construction of the Bennett Dam in B.C. and did work for Trans Alta Utilities at Lake Wabamun. His work took him back and forth to Calgary and on one of those trips, he met Mr. Walter Riva who probably told him something about Canmore.

John joined Burnett Resources in Calgary, then Harding, as manager of mapping, and later Crowsnest Resources, the coal arm of Shell, until clients considered him a specialist on coal. After Shell closed Crowsnest Resources, John went to a company called Orthoshop and continued to service the coal mining industry.

In Edmonton, Eva continued working in medical research at the University of Alberta and the Provincial Laboratory, and then in Calgary at the Faculty of Medicine, U. of C., at Foothills Hospital. 

John first came to Canmore to do the survey and mapping for the dike to be built after the flood

of 1974. In 1976 they bought two lots on 2nd Street and tried to build a home in 1977 and 1978. However, they found they could not properly supervise construction when they were both working full time in Calgary, so they sold their lots and bought a house on 14th Street. They were part-timers until 1986 when they moved to Canmore permanently, to the house they owned on 7th Street. They lived there until they bought their present home in 1989. John continued to work for Orthoshop, commuting to Calgary, or travelling to clients at mine sites.

He became interested in local politics and ran for a seat on Town Council in 1986, but lost. However, in his campaigning, he aroused interest in preventing the building of an airport on what is now Bow Flats Natural Area. In 1989 he was elected to Council, but lost when he ran for mayor in 1992. In 1996 he won a seat on Council again in the by-election. Among the things for which he worked while on Council were the annexation of Three Sisters Corp. land on the southside of the valley; contributing from his past experience, e.g., on records of municipal infrastructure; the undermining committee because he knew experts in the field who could provide information. He is now on the steering committee of the Canmore Rate Payers Association.

In 1984 Eva wrote a cookbook, “Eva’s Hungarian Kitchen”, which is now nearly sold out of its fourth printing. It even sells in English in Hungary. After moving to Canmore, she wrote a column for the Canmore Leader for several years. It was titled ‘Around the Home’ and contained recipes, household hints and other information. Now, in 2000, she has just completed a second book, ‘Eva’s Kitchen Confidence’ which is available only electronically at present.

Both John and Eva still have family in Hungary and travel back once or twice a year. Their son, Leslie, was a competitive swimmer in Calgary, and helped teach swimming several summers here in Canmore at the A1 Motel. Some of those he taught are now working at the Recreation Centre Pool. The summer of 1986 he was a lifeguard at the Upper Hot Springs in Banff. He graduated from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario in 1990 with a degree in engineering. He now lives and works in Calgary, is married to Ruth, and they have a son, Noah.  


Leslie, Ruth, John, Eva Kende


Eva Kende


John Kende


In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p.140-142.

About the author

Canmore Museum