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"ALE" 2003 Obituary


ALESSI  ALEXANDER  ALEXANDOR  ALEXANDROWICZ 

ALESSI o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-03-06 published
The day the music didn't die
Beloved Toronto trumpeter credited with helping preserve a unique form of New Orleans jazz
By Sarah LAMBERT Thursday, March 6, 2003 - Page R9
Toronto -- The tightly knit world of New Orleans traditional jazz has lost one of its greats with the death, last month, of Cliff (Kid) BASTIEN, leader of Toronto's treasured Happy Pals.
The trumpeter is credited as having nothing less than single-handedly kept alive the unique, raw, New Orleans style of jazz, through his leadership and mentorship of hundreds of musicians.
Saddened fans and musicians filed into the city's Grossman's Tavern all week last month to pay tribute to Mr. BASTIEN at the long-time home of the Happy Pals, where the walls are lined with photos of his fans and musicians. It was a send-off worthy of New Orleans, birthplace of the kind of jazz Mr. BASTIEN played with his seven-piece bands, the Camelia Jazz Band and later the Happy Pals, during the 30 or so years he played at the Toronto landmark.
"He was never late. Never, never ever, said Christine LOUIE, whose family inherited Mr. BASTIEN's Saturday-afternoon gig when Al GROSSMAN sold the bar in 1975.
So it was with sinking hearts on February 8 that his loyal audience and band members watched the minute hand tick past 4 o'clock, waiting for him to arrive, brass trumpet in hand.
When he was found later that afternoon still sitting in his armchair, apparently looking up a new song in his hymn book, the Happy Pals played on and raised a glass in tribute to their leader who died as he lived, surrounded by music. He was 65 years old.
Noonie SHEARS, a long-time friend and leader of the traditional impromptu parade that would inevitably snake through Grossman's as Saturday afternoon wound down, said she thought Mr. BASTIEN was looking up I'll Fly Away, the old gospel song recently dusted off in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The band played it for the first time at Mr. BASTIEN's official memorial at Grossman's the Saturday following his death.
Born in 1937 in London's East End, Mr. BASTIEN emigrated to Canada in 1962 after a stint in New Orleans. It was there that he heard trumpeter (Kid) Thomas VALENTINE play and, experiencing a kind of epiphany, Mr. BASTIEN followed him from club to club and studied his style. It ultimately inspired a lifelong ambition to keep alive New Orleans-style traditional jazz.
A purist who drew a distinction between his chosen genre of music and the more popularized Dixieland Jazz, Mr. BASTIEN once said: "Had I never heard that music, I wouldn't have become a musician. I wouldn't play anything else."
I Like Bananas, Caledonia, All of Me and Louisiana Vie en Rose were just a few of his standards. But, as Happy Pals' trombonist Roberta TEVLIN explained, Mr. BASTIEN wasn't content to simply recycle the old chestnuts.
"Cliff kept adding songs. I've probably played 1,000 different tunes with him. He was particularly notorious for finding songs outside the standard jazz list, said Ms. TEVLIN, who joined the band 20 years ago, along with her saxophonist husband, Patrick.
Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Western Swing numbers, Nigerian folk songs and Dean Martin could all tumble out during a set, said drummer Chuck CLARKE.
Mr. BASTIEN's Friends and peers point out that he was known for three primary qualities: His love of music, his scorn for fame or publicity and his mentoring of local musicians.
During the memorial at Grossman's, Downchild Blues Band headman Donny WALSH arrived from Florida to sit in with his harmonica, as he had done regularly with Mr. BASTIEN in the 1970s. Juno-nominated bluesman Michael PICKETT was there, as well as jazz singer Laura HUBERT, formerly of the Leslie Spit Treeo, pianist Peter HILL, The Nationals and many more.
From the worldwide New Orleans jazz community, among those who came to pay their respects were saxophonist Jean-Pierre ALESSI of France, trumpeter Roger (Kid Dutch) UITHOVEN of Orlando, Florida, clarinetist Kjeld BRANDT from Denmark and Toronto's Brian TOWERS, Jan SHAW and Joe VAN ROSSEM.
"I cannot imagine the Toronto traditional jazz scene without Cliff BASTIEN and his raw, emotional New Orleans-style jazz, Mr. TOWERS wrote in a notice posted on the Internet shortly after he learned of the death of his friend.
"He was probably the most popular and influential figure on the Toronto traditional jazz scene. He taught many others to play their instruments in the style and introduced thousands to the joys of New Orleans traditional jazz.
"We went to Grossman's after our own gig and Jan and I played some hymns with the Happy Pals. A sadder and more emotional scene I have rarely seen."
Toronto musician Joanne MacKELL, leader of the Paradise Rangers, wonders how things might have been if she had not met Mr. BASTIEN when she was just starting out.
"Though I was young and inexperienced, Kid would always invite me up to sing, Ms. MacKELL said, recalling how the band took her under its wing when she discovered them in the early 1970s.
"Kid didn't care about money or popular opinion. He filled Grossman's Tavern every Saturday for some 30 years because he played great music with honesty and integrity and he inspired me to try and do the same."
Until just last year, Mr. BASTIEN, who feared flying, avoided the lure of the road, taking only an annual sojourn to New Orleans for the French Quarter Festival. Finally, in the fall of 2002, he accepted an invitation to tour Scandinavia with the Danish/Swedish band New Orleans Delight, playing with George BERRY on tenor sax. A new Compact Disk is due to be released this spring.
His official recordings are few, numbering about a dozen, as Mr. BASTIEN preferred to play to an audience. Though, as Ms. TEVLIN pointed out: "There are bootleg tapes all over the place."
His legacy, the band says, is keeping the New Orleans style of jazz alive.
"Kid Thomas VALENTINE was one of the greats, and when he was gone, Kid BASTIEN carried on. Kid BASTIEN was one of the greats, and now Kid's gone. So who's going to carry the music on now? We will, said saxophonist Mr. TEVLIN on behalf of the Happy Pals, who intend to continue the Saturday-afternoon tradition at Grossman's.
In another side to his life, Mr. BASTIEN was an accomplished commercial artist whose hand-crafted signs, woodwork and acid-etched glass can be seen in many local pubs, including Toronto's Wheat Sheaf Tavern. His work can be found across Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and California, as well as in Europe.
Mr. BASTIEN's wish was to be buried in New Orleans.

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ALEXANDER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-03-04 published
ALEXANDER, Helen (née PARKER)
Passed away peacefully at Chateau Westmount on March 01, 2003 at the age of 98. Widow of Edward Ryckman ALEXANDER, formerly of Sun Life Assurance Co., who died in 1975. Beloved mother and mother-in-law of Ted and Deborah ALEXANDER of Calgary, and Jim and Elizabeth BRIERLEY of Dunham, Quebec. Loving grandmother of Mark, Katherine, and Sarah ALEXANDER, and Donald, Mary, Michael, and Anne BRIERLEY. Great grandmother of eleven. She is also survived by her brother and sister-in-law, William E. and Ruth PARKER of Toronto. Service to be held at St. Andrew's Dominion Douglas Church, corner The Boulevard and Lansdowne Ave., Lansdowne Ave. entrance, on Friday, March 07th at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Montreal Diet Dispensary, 2182 Lincoln Ave. Montreal, H3H 1J3.

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ALEXANDER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-03-04 published
STAITE, Philip Edward, O.D.
Peacefully on Saturday, March 1, 2003, at St. Joseph's Health Centre, in his 80th year, after a long and courageous battle with Parkinson's disease. He is survived by his devoted wife of 55 years, Margaret (née ALEXANDER,) and loving children, Peggy (Rob), Patty (Noel) and Philip (Elizabeth). Dear grandfather of Jennifer, Michael, David, Benjamin, Timothy, Katelyn, Victoria and Philip Anthony. Funeral Service will held at St. George's on-the-Hill, 4600 Dundas Street West, Etobicoke (W. of Royal York Road) on Thursday, March 6, 2003 at 11 a.m. Memorial donations can be made to the Parkinson's Foundation of Canada or the charity of your choice. Arrangements entrusted to the Turner and Porter Yorke Chapel, 416-767-3153.

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ALEXANDER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-04-17 published
The duke of hernia surgery
Working at the Shouldice Hospital in Thornhill, Ontario, he claimed never to have seen two hernias alike and perfected a technique that reduced hospital stays
By Bill GLADSTONE Special to The Globe and Mail Thursday, April 17, 2003 - Page R9
Nicholas OBNEY, who performed more than 32,000 hernia operations during his long career at the renowned Shouldice Hospital in Toronto and Thornhill, Ontario, once told a television interviewer that he had never encountered two hernias the same.
Dr. OBNEY joined the Shouldice Hospital in 1946 and was its chief surgeon between 1965 and his official retirement in 1988. He continued working for several years thereafter "because his heart was here -- it was his whole life," said hospital spokesperson Daryl URQUHART. "He was so dedicated to his patients that he couldn't stop coming in."
The celebrated herniologist, who died in Thornhill, Ontario, at the age of 84, was on call all the time. He read every patient history before assigning them to his team of surgeons.
At his busiest, he averaged five or six hernia operations a day, six days a week, and usually performed the hospital's most difficult cases himself. He is credited with perpetuating and improving upon the pioneering medical techniques devised by his mentor, hospital founder Dr. E. Earle SHOULDICE, who died in 1965.
A hernia is a protrusion or displacement of an intestine or other internal organ through the muscular lining of the cavity in which it is located. Surgeons have referred to the Shouldice method, which uses natural tissues to strengthen the lining, as "the gold standard by which all other hernia repairs should be measured."
The original Shouldice Hospital was located in downtown Toronto but expanded northward in the 1950s into a white colonial-style mansion acquired from the estate of former Globe and Mail publisher George McCullough. The downtown facility was eventually closed and the Thornhill property later expanded into an 89-bed facility with six operating rooms, in which about 7,500 procedures are performed each year.
Until American insurance rules changed in the 1980s, nearly half of the hospital's patients came from the United States, including as a 1982 profile of Dr. OBNEY in People magazine noted -- several entertainment celebrities and even a state governor.
A photo accompanying the People article showed Dr. OBNEY helping a patient step down from the operating table. As the article noted, most patients receive only a local anesthetic and walk away from the operating room on their own steam.
As opposed to the treatment they might receive in a general hospital, patients at Shouldice are encouraged to become active almost immediately after surgery. (A second photo in the People spread showed Dr. OBNEY golfing with six bathrobed patients on the hospital's putting grounds.) Shouldice officials assert that most patients recover much more quickly than those who have hernia repairs elsewhere, and are usually discharged within two or three days.
According to senior surgeon Dr. Michael ALEXANDER, Dr. OBNEY taught him to abandon the practice of inserting a nasal-gastric tube into patients, which "used to be standard procedure for every patient having such an operation.
"He said, 'Don't put one of those tubes down, wait for the patients to declare themselves to see if they have a problem with nausea and vomiting.' And out of 300 patients, we never put a tube down. In fact, when that tube is put down, there's a much higher chance of lung complications."
The proven success of such pioneering methods has attracted scores of visiting doctors to the hospital from all over the world, Dr. ALEXANDER said.
Dr. OBNEY "did so many operations, he used to get a feel for the patient, which can only happen when you do thousands. He had a strong intuitive sense -- he had it by pure experience. I can't think of a case where he was wrong."
Few surgeons could ever hope to match Dr. OBNEY's record of 32,000 hernia operations, Dr. ALEXANDER said. "Can you imagine that many people? You'd have to fill up Maple Leaf Gardens, empty it out and fill it up again."
Born as an only child in the Ukrainian village of Ronaseowka in 1918, Nicholas's parents brought him to Canada when he was 9, and settled in Toronto's west end. As soon as he learned English, he began to excel in school -- Charles Fraser Public School, then Parkdale Collegiate. His father, a machinist, borrowed $300 to pay for his tuition to the University of Toronto medical school, from which Nicholas graduated in 1942.
Interning at Toronto General Hospital, he entered the Royal Canadian Medical Corp, where he encountered one of his former university instructors -- E. Earle SHOULDICE -- acting as an army surgical consultant attempting to reduce the number of men rejected for military service because of hernia conditions. Dr. OBNEY assisted in that effort, and in 1946 joined the newly established Shouldice Hospital at the corner of Church and Charles streets in Toronto.
"He started working with Dr. SHOULDICE as an understudy and Dr. SHOULDICE showed him his method," said his daughter, Dr. Jeannette FROST. " Then together they improved on the technique."
According to family and colleagues, Dr. OBNEY disliked travelling, especially by air, and attended relatively few of the many medical conferences at which he was asked to speak. He once went to a conference in Los Angeles by train, and came straight home when it ended a few days later. Another time, persuaded to speak in Australia, he agreed to fly there but not to stay even one day more than necessary before returning home.
He enjoyed spending time on the family's 25-acre "hobby farm" in what is now the Beaver Creek industrial area of Thornhill. When the land was expropriated about 20 years ago, he and his wife felled all of the property's 16 trees: The family still has no shortage of firewood. Aside from being extremely economical, he was known for his plain tastes in food and his perfectionism. His hobbies included military history and classical music.
He was highly organized and "ran the hospital like clockwork," according to retired supervisory nurse Brenda OWENS, who was also his cousin.
"He was always so approachable, he seemed like a volume of knowledge, he did his work quickly and accurately, and he expected the same type of behaviour from his staff."
In 1998, the American Hernia Society awarded Dr. OBNEY with a plaque that cited him as "an unselfish master surgeon" known for "his generosity with knowledge and encouragement to visiting surgeons."
Nicholas OBNEY died on February 15. He leaves his wife of 59 years, the former Stephanie KASYN; and his daughter Jeannette.

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ALEXANDER o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-24 published
He ran O'Keefe Centre in its prime
Former accountant was an innovator: He booked a show using surtitles and a play about an interracial romance
By Carol COOPER Special to The Globe and Mail Saturday, May 24, 2003 - Page F10
Late one spring night in 1963, a phone call awoke Hugh WALKER, the first managing director and president of Toronto's O'Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts. A police officer wanted to know if "we had a mad Russian called Nuri-something dancing at the O'Keefe Centre," Mr. WALKER wrote in his book, The O'Keefe Centre: Thirty Years of Theatre History.
After the opening performance of Marguerite and Armand, in which he starred with Dame Margot FONTEYN, Rudolph NUREYEV had danced up the centre of Yonge Street, attempting headstands on cars as he went. Police intervened in the interest of Mr. NUREYEV's safety, but after a scuffle, the dancer landed in jail for causing a disturbance.
Endlessly kind, courtly and patient, Mr. WALKER notified the Royal Ballet with whom Mr. NUREYEV was performing, and the dancer was released.
Mr. WALKER, the man who smoothed the way for the stars appearing at the O'Keefe as overseer of its operations and who had previously supervised its construction, has died at the age of 93.
O'Keefe Centre, now named the Hummingbird Centre, opened on October 1, 1960, with the first performance of Camelot in the country's first Broadway musical. The show starred Richard BURTON, Julie ANDREWS and Robert GOULET and played to a glittering crowd.
In The Toronto Star, Gordon SINCLAIR wrote: "A salaam to Hugh WALKER for bringing the O'Keefe Centre home on time after 30 months of strain on his patience, nerves and humour."
Mr. WALKER had, in fact, developed an ulcer during the centre's construction, and the strain didn't end with its opening. Shortly after the curtain, his wife, Shirley, smelled smoke. It turned out to be a burning escalator motor, and after the fire was extinguished, Mary JOLLIFFE, the centre's publicist, ran to a hotel across the street for air freshener. The audience came out at intermission none the wiser.
It took royalty to solve another problem. At the time, temperance sentiment remained strong in Toronto, and teetotallers criticized the fact the O'Keefe was funded by, and named for, a brewery.
Mr. WALKER set about to gain acceptance for the centre. Learning that the Queen was visiting Canada in June of 1959, he convinced her aides that she should stop briefly at the construction site and view a model of the building.
Before an audience of arts patrons and the press, the Queen inspected the model and showed such an interest that she overstayed her schedule, delaying the start of the Queen's Plate, her next stop, by half an hour.
Mr. WALKER didn't know that the Queen or the O'Keefe would be in his future when he became executive assistant to Canadian Breweries and Argus Corp. owner E. P. TAILOR/TAYLOR in 1955.
It was only after his hiring that he learned that Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR had responded to a challenge made by Nathan PHILLIPS, then mayor of Toronto, for industry to build a desperately needed performing arts theatre in the city. For the project, Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR gave $12-million and the services of his new assistant.
With the slogan "To bring the best of live entertainment to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible prices," the 3, 211-seat multipurpose theatre, designed by modernist architect Peter DICKINSON, quickly became a predominant Canadian venue, predating the Place des Arts in Montreal and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Pre-Broadway shows, musicals, ballets and plays from around the world came to the O'Keefe and it replaced Maple Leaf Gardens as the Toronto venue for the Metropolitan Opera. International stars such as Louis ARMSTRONG, Paul ANKA, Tom JONES, Diana ROSS and Harry BELAFONTE performed there.
During one of Mr. BELAFONTE's many performances at the centre, he experimented with a wireless mike. Accidentally, he tuned into the police frequency. "The O'Keefe audience had the unusual experience of listening in on a lot of police messages, while the police were able to enjoy hearing BELAFONTE sing Ma-til-da!," Mr. WALKER wrote.
Another O'Keefe story concerned Carol CHANNING. When the performer appeared at the centre in Hello, Dolly, she needed to make a number of quick costume changes. Since there wasn't enough time for Ms. CHANNING to run backstage to her dressing room, the crew put up a roofless tent in the wings.
From the fly bridge, the stagehands looked down on Ms. CHANNING, remaining quiet while they watched her change. After her last performance, she looked up at them and said, "Well, boys, hope you've enjoyed the show. 'Bye now."
Other more critical events are associated with the O'Keefe. In 1964, while awaiting her divorce from Eddie FISHER, Elizabeth TAILOR/TAYLOR stayed with Richard BURTON while he starred in Sir John GIELGUD's production of Hamlet at the centre. One weekend between performances, the couple stole off to Montreal and married.
And in 1974, ballet dancer Mikhail BARYSHNIKOV arranged his defection from the Soviet Union at the centre.
During the early 1960s, the O'Keefe became home to the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company. In his book, Mr. WALKER credits the centre with allowing the companies' artistic growth.
Still, not everyone spoke so kindly about the O'Keefe. Many critics denounced its acoustics and less-than-intimate size.
For that, Mr. WALKER had a ready answer. In 1985, Herbert WHITTAKER, then The Globe and Mail's drama critic, wrote: "Against the fading chorus of these ancient complaints, I hear an echo, the rather quiet British tones of Hugh WALKER: 'We know it [O'Keefe Centre] is too large for legitimate theatre, Herbert, but think of all the things Toronto would have missed if E. P. TAILOR/TAYLOR hadn't built it when he did?' "
Born on March 2, 1910, in Scotland to Brigadier-General James Workman WALKER, who fought in the Middle East during the First World War, and Jane STEVENSON, Hugh Percy WALKER was the middle of three children. After earning a B.A. at Cambridge University, he became a chartered accountant.
Mr. WALKER worked with firms in London, Palestine, Quebec, Scotland and Michigan before being employed by Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR.
Although a great lover of theatre, upon his appointment as the O'Keefe's managing director, Mr. WALKER had little experience with its business side. This led to some innocent faux pas, such as when he booked a photo shoot with the Camelot stars at 10 in the morning, impossibly early for actors. In response, Mr. BURTON exclaimed: "What, in the middle of the night?" Ms. JOLLIFFE said.
Still, director and theatre critic Mavor MOORE said Mr. WALKER dealt with difficulties well. "He was very smooth," Dr. MOORE said. "He was very expert at handling people and situations. He was a calm man."
Mr. WALKER trusted his staff, Ms. JOLLIFFE said. "He was willing to take direction from staff people who had already been in the business, and that was unusual."
And he was gracious and courteous. "He gave great dignity to the performing arts profession and he treated people wonderfully," Ms. JOLLIFFE said. "He was a perfect model of a former era of English gentlemen."
Known for his hospitality, Mr. WALKER always visited the stars in their dressing rooms before opening night and entertained them afterward at First Nighters' parties with Mrs. WALKER.
When the WALKERs took Leonard BERNSTEIN to the Rosedale Country Club, Mr. WALKER tolerated Mr. BERNSTEIN's sending back the wine three times, Ms. JOLLIFFE said.
Along with bringing in commercial performances from the United States and Britain, Mr. WALKER showed some daring in booking shows. In 1961, Kwamina, the story of a romantic relationship between a white woman and a black man, played the O'Keefe.
Acknowledging Toronto's Italian population, Mr. WALKER arranged for Rugantino, the biggest musical hit in Italian history, to play at the O'Keefe in 1963. It was the first foreign-language attraction in North America to use "surtitles," and although plagued with technical difficulties, it played to 60-per-cent capacity.
Things changed for Mr. WALKER and O'Keefe Centre in the late 1960s. Initially, the centre had been a subsidiary of the O'Keefe Brewing Co., owned by Canadian Breweries, and was never intended to make a profit. The company wrote off its operating losses and property taxes.
When Mr. TAILOR/TAYLOR retired in 1966, directors of Canadian Breweries decided that they could not continue to pay the O'Keefe's high taxes. To resolve the situation, Metropolitan Toronto was given the centre in 1968.
A new and inexperienced board of directors brought a new way of doing things, and the centre's losses began to mount.
Mr. WALKER wrote that after the disastrous 1971-72 season, "what followed was not the happiest part of my 15 years at the O'Keefe Centre, and I would like to forget some of the things that happened."
In his final working years, Mr. WALKER dealt with both the centre's internal changes and rising competition from the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the St. Lawrence Centre and emerging alternative theatres.
After his retirement in 1975, he spent 10 years at the Guild of All Arts in Scarborough, Ontario, as the director of Guildwood Hall, curating former Guild Inn owner Spencer CLARK's historical architectural collection of artifacts, writing and illustrating a booklet on them, curating Mr. CLARK's art collection, making a film and lecturing.
He and his wife lived on the Guild's grounds for four years in the now-demolished Corycliff, where they hosted parties whose guests included many stars from the O'Keefe days.
Along with writing the O'Keefe Centre history while in his 80s, Mr. WALKER golfed.
Sue NIBLETT, who worked with him at the Guild, recalls seeing Mr. WALKER nattily attired in golf clothing and Wellingtons standing in two feet of snow driving balls into Lake Ontario.
"He had a love of life that I've never experienced or met in anybody before," Ms. NIBLETT said. "He didn't waste a day of his life as far as I could see."
Mr. WALKER died on May 2 and leaves daughters Katrina PARKER and Zoë ALEXANDER and two grandchildren. Another daughter, Sarah CHENIER/CHENÉ, and his wife, Shirley, predeceased him.

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ALEXANDOR o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-11 published
GELBER, Sylva Malka, OC, LL.D.
93 years old, Sylva Malka GELBER, whose years of activism in pre-Israel Palestine eventually propelled her to be the first director of the Canadian Department of Labour's Women's Bureau, died on December 9th, 2003, of complications from a stroke. She was 93 and lived in Ottawa.
During the heady years of pioneering in gains for women's rights and Medicare in Canada during the 1960s and 70s, she travelled the country, never shrill and always reasoned in her campaign for equality for women in the country's labour force. She took this pragmatic approach to the United Nations where she represented Canada on the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women between 1970 - 74.
A social and industrial activist at heart, she never lost her zest for a good argument on those issues which had been part of her adult life since she left her comfortable Toronto home in the early 1930s for the turmoil of Jerusalem and Palestine. There she became the first graduate of the Va'ad Leumi School of Social Work - now the Faculty of Social Work of the Hebrew University - and took on jobs incongruous with her upbringing which had included schooling at Havergal College, a private girl's school.
She worked in Palestine during the Mandate as a family counsellor, a probation officer and medical social worker at Hadassah Hospital, and then with the Palestine Department of Labour from 1942 - 48 when she returned to Canada. The adventuresome 15 years Sylva GELBER lived in the turmoil of Palestine are chronicled with affection, awe and frankness in ''No Balm in Gilead: A Personal Retrospective of Mandate Days in Palestine'' published in 1989. By the time she moved back to Canada, she could switch effortlessly among Hebrew and Arabic and English which impressed no one in bureaucratic Ottawa, but did startle the Capital's stuffy side, she often noted mischievously.
Her deep red lipstick and nail polish when paired with her fast sports cars belied the image of the traditional Ottawa civil servant she could never be, despite distinguished and proud accomplishments in promoting federal health insurance and Medicare until they became the law of the land.
Along the way, she accepted many appointments to serve Canada at International Labour Organization conferences, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations General Assembly. She was a member of the Order of Canada and was awarded honorary degrees from several universities including Queen's, Memorial, Trent, Guelph and Mount St. Vincent.
Sylva Malka GELBER was born in 1910 in Toronto to Sara (MORRIS) and Louis GELBER. Her father, a survivor of pogroms in Eastern Europe, was determined that her four brothers, all of whom attended Upper Canada College, and she, all receive worldly educations beyond their specific Jewish community. She always admired her father for this farsightedness in encouraging his children to become part of a broader society.
At the University of Toronto, she produced plays. She sang spirituals on a Toronto radio station, but her parents would have none of a show business career. She was packed off to Columbia University in New York; but even that did not satisfy her rambunctious spirit and soon she was on her way to distant Palestine.
Never domesticated as women of her day usually were, she paid little attention to her kitchen pantry when she finally settled in Ottawa; but always gregarious, she loved to entertain around the piano which she played by ear and with great gusto. Her library of records and Compact Disks, was always in use as music filled her life; and she has endowed an important annual prize through The Sylva Gelber Music Foundation, which is granted to an outstanding young Canadian musician at the early stage of his or her career.
In retirement, she energetically participated in the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and the Wednesday Luncheon Club of former cabinet ministers and civil servants, such as her neighbour, Jack PICKERSGILL, who thrashed over current political issues.
Sylva GELBER was predeceased by her four brothers, Lionel, Marvin, Arthur and Shalome Michael. She is survived by her four nieces and their husbands, Nance GELBER and Dan BJARNASON, Patty and David RUBIN, Judith GELBER and Dan PRESLEY, and Sara and Richard CHARNEY, all of Toronto; her sister-in-law, Marianne GELBER of New York; four great nephews and a great niece, Gerald and Noah RUBIN, and Adam, Andrew and Laura CHARNEY; as well as cousins Ruth JEWEL and David EISEN; David ALEXANDOR, and Ruth GELBER all of Toronto; and Ivan CHORNEY and Betsy RIGAL, both of Ottawa. At Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel, 2401 Steeles Avenue West (1 light west of Dufferin) for service on Thursday, December 11, 2003 at 12: 00 noon. Interment Beth Tzedec Memorial Park.

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ALEXANDROWICZ o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-04-17 published
Sylvia Mary KISSOCK
By Conrad ALEXANDROWICZ Thursday, April 17, 2003 - Page A22
Mother, friend, meteorologist. Born January 9, 1919, in London, England. Died July 13, 2002, in Victoria, British Columbia, of heart failure, aged 83.
My mother was the first child born to William Henry KISSOCK and Catherine IRENE, née SHARPE. Her father was a wacky Scot, originally named MacKISSOCK, who worked as a marine engineer. Her mother came from a large family whose parents were wealthy brewers. When my mother was 5, the family moved to Australia, near Adelaide. Here she spent some of the happiest years of her life, excelling at dancing and acrobatics, and spending much time on the beach with many Friends.
Then the Depression hit and my grandfather lost his job. They returned to cold, grey, out-of-work England, and the family, like many others, had a very hard go of things. (By this time sister Marian, nine years Sylvia's junior, had joined the family.)
My mother took after her father: she seems to have inherited his irreverent sense of humour, native optimism, great generosity, love of adventure, and talent for dancing. She had always wanted to be a performer, but her mother vetoed that idea, and insisted that Sylvia take secretarial courses at Pitman's College; my mother became a first-rate secretary and administrator.
During the Second World War, Sylvia joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and worked as a meteorologist. She met my Polish father, Adam ALEXANDROWICZ, in London after the war. He swept her off her feet with his dashing good looks and continental manners. The couple emigrated to Canada, eventually settling in Ottawa, where he worked for the federal government. Because of her asthma, Ottawa winters were a great trial for her. They had three sons: older brother Stefan, myself, and Adam junior.
Life with my father was mostly very hard; he suffered from bipolar disorder, and he never really recovered from the Second World War. In 1975, she left him, taking most of the furniture with her: she had paid for it out of her meagre salary.
When she retired in 1984, she moved to Victoria, a city where she had only one old friend. But moving there was an adventure that she undertook with anticipation and pleasure.
She enjoyed keenly her retirement there. She loved the swarms of robins in February, the stunning rhododendrons, the cherry blossoms, and the daffodils. But heart disease (she'd had a heart attack back in Ottawa in 1975) was stalking her relentlessly. Despite her devotion to health food, the right fats, a positive attitude, and lots of exercise, the effects of arteriosclerosis continued to accumulate.
My mother suffered much from various ailments of the physical body, but she never let them get her down. She had very few material or financial resources and never met another man after leaving my father, but she never lapsed into bitterness or self-pity. She made the most of life with her energy, enthusiasm, a great sense of humour, and passion for the causes of feminism and environmental activism.
Mum must have had an extra portion of luck from somewhere, since she survived so many health crises. But in the last few months she took what she herself recognized as the last turn with the onset of congestive heart failure. Always independent, she had no wish to languish at home or to be parked in a long-term care facility. So, sometime during her afternoon nap, she just left. She used to say to me, "You know, I always wanted to go out with a massive heart attack, not slowly fall apart." It seems she got what she wanted.
If anything can be said to exemplify my mother's life, it's the concept of triumph over adversity. She had a hard life, but she lived well. Sylvia was a woman of great integrity and principle a dedicated mother and a loyal friend.
Conrad ALEXANDROWICZ is Sylvia's son.

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