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"DUP" 2003 Obituary


DUPOIRE 

DUPOIRE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-07-10 published
Ben WISE
By Jeremy FERGUSON Thursday, July 10, 2003 - Page A20
Actor, director, lawyer, innkeeper, artist, husband, father. Born May 13, 1929, in Toronto. Died January 21, of cancer, aged Ben WISE spent the first six years of his life in a household of Polish Jewish immigrants. The language was Yiddish. Enrolled in public school at 6, Ben didn't speak a word of English. He was held back a year. He joked he was the guy who failed Grade Others knew him as the perfectionist, hands-on proprietor of the Inn at Manitou.
His daughter Jennifer, associate professor of theatre history at the University of Victoria, recalls that by the time he came to fatherhood at age 30, he was already accomplished. He'd been a floor director during the "golden age" of television drama at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was Ben's index finger that cued the first live-to-air transmission of the new national broadcast network in 1952.
He graduated as a lawyer, from Osgoode Hall in 1957, but the courtroom was not for him. It was more his nature to be the seasoned traveller, journeying to Israel in 1949, studying life from cafés on the Champs Élysées and, in a Hemingway turn, reeling in giant sail-fish off Jamaica.
Enter Sheila, his wife, partner, and best friend, always at his side, supporting and making possible everything he did, everything he was. Their greatest co-production was their children: Cindy, Jennifer, Jordanna and Jonathan -- and five grandchildren.
In 1959, Ben and Sheila launched Mani tou-wabing, a fine arts camp near Parry Sound, Ontario The Toronto press called him "The Sol Hurok of Camping." The fledgling impresario signed on prima ballerinas from Belgrade, musical-theatre directors from New York's 42nd Street, designers from Derbyshire, Shakespeareans from Stratford. He assembled a fine arts faculty unheard-of in the world of camping. He nurtured the talents of thousands of young painters, dancers, musicians and filmmakers.
This was mere rehearsal for Ben's baby, the Inn at Manitou, born in 1974. The Inn is a unique fusion of tennis club, five-star hotel, wilderness spa and French restaurant, and a long-standing member of Paris-based Relais and Chateau. The summer of 2003 marks its 30th season, its standards unflagging -- as Ben would have insisted.
He was a foodie before the word came along, bringing over several French chefs, including Jean-Pierre CHALLET of Toronto's Bouchon and Jean-Charles DUPOIRE of Epic in the Royal York Hotel.
"Ben understood the enormous difference between being good and very good," remembers Mr. CHALLET. "He guided chefs. He opened our minds. He and Sheila were always ahead of their time. Even today, there is nobody in Toronto with their standards of perfection."
Renaissance men don't sleep: Ben found time to be a developer, building spectacular country houses on the shores of Lake Manitou-wabing. He took up paint brushes and turned out hundreds of landscapes and portraits. His paintings sold. In his 70s, he was planning a return to acting. The man had many lives to live.
Fatherhood? "He wanted us to see, feel, experience, know everything all the beauty in the world, all the noble ideas, all the gorgeous music, all the best of every type of thing that is," says Jennifer WISE. " From blinis in Moscow to falafel in Jeru salem; from New Year's in Paris to the Old Vic in London; from Rumplemeyer's on the East Side to Beethoven on the West, he... treated us to a three-decades-long guided tour of his world."
The last words are Jennifer's: "Above all, Ben loved to feel the sun on his face -- he'd close his eyes, tilt his head back to catch all its rays, and command us to do the same. He never tired of the sight of the coloured leaves in autumn, or the blazing glow of a sunset at day's end."
Jeremy FERGUSON is Ben's friend.

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