Goodbye to a giant Cote Saint-Lucer, my friend Gerry Weinstein
May 26, 2016
Gerry Weinstein has been described as a generous, no nonsense, just do it and quit-yer-belly-aching kind of guy. Some called him a gentle giant. Others say he was the most humble kind of leader. I think he was all that and much more. I also called him my friend.
I originally knew him as “Uncle Gerry,” on account of one of my closest old friends, his nephew, Gary Polachek. Hanging out at Gary’s city and country homes, I’d often meet his uncle who had a sense of humour and a strong sense of family.
As I got older I’d also befriend his daughter Suzee, an immensely personable and affable young woman, witty and strong-minded, and a huge smile, just like her dad. That Suzee was able to donate her own kidney to extend Gerry’s life for 12 years is simply incredible.
As I became involved in community my path would cross Gerry’s again and again. Attending the Telethon of Stars to watch CFCF live television performances at Place Bonaventure, one couldn’t help but witness Gerry’s grandeur as a key organizer.
When my buddy Mike Cohen and I set out to form the Jewish Adult Programming Society with a few other university pals in the mid ’80s, it was Gerry who’d give us an early boost in terms of initial donations that would help create amazing experiences for hundreds of young adults.
Back in 1995, Gerry, Mike and I created a Neighbourhood watch program and Gerry offered up his Knights of Pythias offices on Robert Burns as our headquarters. This initiative was the precursor for what is today known as vCOP (volunteer Citizens on Patrol) and Gerry played a role in its inception.
For more than my three decades of political activism Gerry would be present and engaged again and again. Notwithstanding the irony that we actually ran against each other in our first bid for a Cote Saint-Luc City Council seat in 1989, we never had anything but good words to describe each other. Whether it was contributing to my political campaigns or those of other aspiring local, provincial or federal political candidates, Gerry would always say yes, even to those with opposing political views.
He once arranged for a band to play on the back of an old hillbilly truck as it wound its way through the streets of CSL blasting the name of his candidate.
In later years, despite health issues robbing him of his vision, and later his ability to walk, you’d never hear a complaint from Gerry. And somehow, whenever I’d happen upon him out in the community or at the hospital and I’d say, “Hi Gerry, how are you?”, two things would amaze me. First, he always responded, “Hi Glenn,” before I even identified myself. Second, he’d always reply positively, “Great.” I never figured out how he could remember everyone’s voice. Remarkable. And my day would always be great after hearing his positive and infectious response coupled with his very firm handshake. How could you have a bad day after shaking hands with this friendly giant who turned every impediment into a challenge to concur and overcome with guts and courage?
I was so proud to nominate Gerry as CSL Ambassador of the Year several years ago and partake in this award that was so richly deserved.
Whatever niceties you hear about Gerry, they’re all true. Generous to the core, in the pure sense of the word.
How appropriate and moving to see the overflow crowd at Papermans yesterday. Of course there were family and friends in attendance. There were leaders too such as Anthony Housefather, MP, former Quebec cabinet minister and MNA Lawrence Bergman, CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and his wife Elaine, several CSL City Councillors including Mike Cohen, Steven Erdelyi, Allan Levine and myself, former MNA and Mayor Robert Libman and former Secretary of State and Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Gerry Wener. I’m sure there were many more leaders that I didn’t spot. There were Masonic brothers wearing their biker vests, looking like Beach Boys from the ’60s, reminiscent of Gerry’s wilder days as a competitive wrestling and boxer. The Pythians were there. There was even a busload of residents from the house that Gerry built, B’nai Brith House in CSL, a place where he was affectionately known as the mayor. And there were many, many more people there to pay respects and to remember Gerry.
His son Jeff eulogized his dad saying he always found someone less fortunate to help and that Gerry recruited everyone into his projects, whether they liked it or not. He was a “giant gentleman,” Jeff said, adding, “his legacy will live on.”
Nephew Aaron Remer, stated that Gerry was , “fair and dealt with all matters with sensitivity.”
Rabbi Asher Jacobson said that there are many words to describe Gerry but “Perseverance” stands out as a key descriptor, as does “Determination.”
“Even in his death, life is being built. People are being helped by Gerry’s perseverance and determination,” the rabbi said. “He had a deep sensitivity of those who were vulnerable. He always spoke up. He never shied away. He was a boxer and a wrestler and he was a fighter for good and for justice, the rabbi continued. “The man could not say no.
Nothing would stop this man. Not dialysis. No health issues. Right to the very end. That someone without eyesight can have such vision is truly extraordinary.”
The world and our community lost a great man this week. Gerry was my friend. He will be missed and fondly remembered by so many people.
Mike Cohen’s blog