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"RIS" 2003 Obituary


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RISEN o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-03-22 published
Champ didn't tell his mother
Toronto fighter was talked into boxing by his brothers during the Thirties as a way to make more money
By Barbara SILVERSTEIN Special to The Globe and Mail Saturday, March 22, 2003 - Page F11
When Leon SLAN became Canada's champion heavyweight boxer, he didn't tell his mother. She disapproved of the sport, so he kept the news to himself -- though not for long. Mr. SLAN, who died last month at the age of 86, had for years fought under another name and managed to escape his mother's wrath until 1936, when he won the national amateur title and the irresistibility of fame upset his comfortable obscurity.
The modest Mr. SLAN went on to become a successful Toronto businessman who had so allowed boxing to settle into his past that in 1986 most of his Friends were surprised when he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame. It astonished everyone that the man they knew as the co-owner of a luggage-making company was known in boxing circles as Lennie STEIN, holder of the Canadian amateur heavyweight title from 1935 to 1937.
A quiet and unassuming giant of a man, his wife described him as invariably soft-spoken. "I never heard him raise his voice once in all the years we were married, Isabel SLAN said.
By all accounts, Mr. SLAN's mild demeanour belied his prowess in the ring, said his son, Jon SLAN. " For a man who was a champion at a blood sport, he was the gentlest person you ever met."
Born in Winnipeg to Russian immigrants on June 28, 1916, Mr. SLAN was the second of three sons. In 1922, the family moved to the Annex area of Toronto where he attended Harbord Collegiate Institute. His father, Joseph SLAN, was a struggling tailor with interesting ideas about the garment industry. In 1931, he headed a co-operative called Work-Togs Limited. It consisted of a small band of tailors who were to share in the profits. The project suffered from poor timing: It came on the scene at the height of the Depression and failed dismally.
In 1934, Joseph SLAN died in poverty and Leon and his two brothers Bob, who was born in 1914, and Jack, born in 1918 -- had to provide for their mother. Bringing home meagre paycheques from what little work they could find, the three decided to find a supplement.
At the time, boxing was a popular spectator sport and one of the few that was open to Jewish athletes. Bob and Jack knew that a good fighter could earn a decent living in the ring. Their eyes fell on Leon. At 17, their 6-foot-2, 200-pound, athletic brother towered over most grown men.
"Leon was big and strong and Bob and Jack thought he should be boxing, Mrs. SLAN said. "The family needed the money."
They persuaded him to give it a try and promised their support, she said. "They took him to over the gym. There they were, the three boys walking down the street arm-in-arm with Leon in the middle. They all walked over together to sign Leon up."
They didn't consult their mother. In fact, the brothers decided to enter the fight name Lennie STEIN, so she wouldn't read about Leon in the papers and worry.
As it turned out, the new Lennie STEIN was a natural. Mr. SLAN won his first major fight in a Round 1 knockout over the Toronto Golden Gloves title holder. " STEIN is durable and exceptionally fast for a heavyweight, " The Toronto Star reported in 1935. "He has the ability to rain punishment on his opponents with both hands."
In this way, he won almost all of his major fights. It helped, too, that his coach happened to be Maxie KADIN, a legend in Ontario boxing. Out of 40 bouts, Mr. SLAN netted 34 wins, 22 by knockout, and six losses.
A fighter who possessed a dogged and implacable manner, he was popular with the fans.
"He was known for not staying down on the canvas, Jon SLAN said. "On those rare times when he was decked, he always refused the referee's outstretched hand and picked himself up."
Yet, for all his success, Mr. SLAN rejected the opportunity to go fully professional. A manager and promoter from New York had seen him in a bout with a certain German boxer and saw possibilities.
"He wanted to promote him as the Great White Jewish Hope, " Jon said.
The German boxer happened to be the brother of Max SCHMELING, the Aryan protégé of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, who in 1936 had defeated the otherwise invincible Joe LOUIS in the upset of the century. To make it even more interesting, the manager proved to be the famous John BUCKLEY, who called the shots for Jack SHARKEY, a heavyweight who had beaten SCHMELING four years earlier.
"The promoter got so interested in this meeting of German and Jew that he offered my father a contract, but he didn't offer enough money, " Jon said.
The problem, it turned out, was that Mr. SLAN couldn't afford to turn professional, he once told a Globe and Mail reporter. "I was making good money then, $25 a week, and I was supporting my mother, " he said in 1988. "I asked him [Buckley] to put up $5,000 [and] he just laughed at me. He said he had hundreds of heavyweights."
Negotiations ended right there. "He was [only] interested in me because I was Jewish and that would go over big in New York."
It wasn't the only time that race emerged as an issue. Mr. SLAN had boxed under the auspices of the Young Men's Hebrew Association until 1936 when it was blackballed by the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada for withholding a portion of its proceeds. The money was earmarked for the Canadian Olympic effort, but the Young Men's Hebrew Association had refused to support the upcoming 1936 Berlin Games because of Germany's poor treatment of Jews. In the end, the Amateur Athletic Union permitted Mr. SLAN to enter as an independent and he went on to fight unattached to win the Toronto and national titles.
"It seemed so easy at the time, " he said in 1988. "I was a very quiet kid, but when I won, I became such a hero."
That glory turned out to be the undoing of Lennie STEIN, the fighter -- though it was all something of an anticlimax. The one thing Leon SLAN had feared on his way up through the ranks came to nothing: his mother finally found out that he boxed and then failed to react -- at least, not that anyone in the family can remember.
"She just took it in her stride, said Isabel SLAN. " She was a Jewish mother from the old country. I don't think she really understood what boxing was all about."
Perhaps, too, it helped to smooth matters that her son's secret endeavours had ended in triumph. She can only have felt a mother's pride.
In 1937, Mr. SLAN retired from boxing and found a job at a produce stall in Toronto's old fruit terminal on Colborne Street and was later hired by his brother Bob, a proprietor of Dominion Citrus Ltd. It was tough work with long hours, Mrs. SLAN said. "Leon would have to get up at 2 o'clock in the morning to go unload the fruits and vegetables off the trucks."
Even so, he still had some time for boxing. After working long days at the market, he taught athletics at the Young Men's Hebrew Association and it was there that he met Isabel MARGOLIAN. A concert pianist newly arrived from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, she happened to take one of his boxing classes for women.
"We were all lined up in a row, punching bags, " she remembered. "Leon came up to me and told me I wasn't punching hard enough. Then he took my hand and hit it into the bag to show me how to do it. I felt my bones crunch, but I didn't say anything."
As it turned out, he had broken her hand. When he learned what had happened, he phoned her and thus began a different relationship. They married in 1942 and later that year Mr. SLAN enlisted in the army where he ended up in the Queen's Own Rifles. While in the army, he returned to boxing and won the 1942 Canadian Army heavyweight title.
After the war, the SLAN brothers founded Dominion Luggage in Toronto's garment district, a company that started small with eight workers and grew into a successful enterprise employing 200. Each brother had a different responsibility -- Jack was the designer, Bob took care of the administration and Leon was the salesman.
"It was a job that really suited him, Mrs. SLAN said. "He was very personable [and] sold to Eaton's, Simpsons, Air Canada -- all the big companies. He became good Friends with many of the buyers."
The three brothers enjoyed a comfortable relationship built on affection and loyalty, Jon said.
"Bob liked to fish, so he took Thursdays and Fridays off to go to his cottage. My father took Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons off to golf."
Jack, the creative force among them, rarely left the business but never begrudged his brothers their leisure time.
"They had the perfect partnership, " said Jon, a relationship anchored by their mother. "They were her surrogate husbands. I don't think there was a SLAN wife who felt that she wasn't playing second fiddle to my grandmother."
The brothers went to her house every day for lunch until she was 90. "She made old-time Jewish food. Her definition of borscht was sour cream with a touch of beets, " Jon said. "She cooked with chicken fat and the boys loved it."
Sophie SLAN died in 1984 at the age of 93.
In 1972, the SLANs sold Dominion Luggage to Warrington Products, a large conglomerate. "Warrington made them an offer they couldn't turn down, " Isabel said.
Even so, the brothers' relationship continued into retirement. "They called each other every day, even when their health was failing, " Jon said. "Bob died in 2000 and Jack in 2002. My father took their deaths very hard."
Although he never boxed again, Mr. SLAN played sports well into his 70s and could still show his mettle. He had taken up tennis at about the age of 40 and, when he couldn't get a membership at the exclusive Toronto Lawn Tennis Club in Rosedale, he co-founded the York Racquets Tennis Club. It opened in 1964, directly across the street from the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club.
Mr. SLAN died of heart failure in Toronto on February 11. He leaves his wife Isabel, son Jon and daughters Elynne GOLDKIND and Anna RISEN.

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RISK o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-23 published
PERDUE, Canon Richard Keith
Died at Toronto on May 22nd, 2003 at the age of 94. son of the Reverend R. and Mrs. PERDUE of Walkerton. Graduated from Ridley College, St. Catharines and Trinity College, Toronto. Predeceased by his dear wife Evelyn (BILLESDON) after 59 years of happiness together. Father of Ann K. (MOORE) and Richard R. (Q.C.) and John M., all of Toronto. He will also be missed by Gordon MOORE, son-in-law, Wanda PERDUE, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren Kimberly Ann and John Keith PERDUE, and Suzanne and Jay MOORE. He was the brother of Mrs. M.B. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON of Port Hope, Mrs. K.N. RISK of Toronto and Mr. H.M. PERDUE of British Columbia. He served parishes at Lakeview, Aurora, St. Matthew's Toronto and St. Matthew's Islington. While posted in Toronto he was long associated with the social service work of the Diocese. He also served in his retirement as an Assistant at St. Nathaniel Episcopal Church in North Port, Florida for 20 years. From 1942 to 1946 he served with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Having landed in Normandy on D-Day, he served in Europe until the end of the war. He was demobilized with the rank of Major. For many years after the war he was Chaplain for the Queen's York Rangers. The service will be held at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, Islington, 3962 Bloor Street West (east of Hwy. 427) on Monday, May 26, 2003 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Huntsville Memorial Hospital Foundation, 354 Muskoka Road 3 North, Huntsville, Ontario P1H 1H7.

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RISKE o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-11 published
Pint-sized scrapper 'liked wrestling more than eating'
Stellar career in the ring was marred only by the near-miss loss of an Olympic medal
By Tom HAWTHORN, Special to The Globe and Mail Thursday, December 11, 2003 - Page R11
He was a Regina stonecutter who used his strength to good effect in the wrestling ring. Vern PETTIGREW, who has died at 95, was an athlete whose career was marred only by the near-miss loss of an Olympic medal.
Competing for Canada, Mr. PETTIGREW finished in fourth place in the featherweight division of the freestyle-wrestling competition at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The 28-year-old stonecutter with a chiselled physique had dominated his Swedish opponent when the match suddenly ended with Mr. PETTIGREW disqualified for using an illegal hold. The Swede went on to claim the bronze medal, while Mr. PETTIGREW spent the next 67 years contemplating the unfairness of a verdict that denied him Olympic glory.
"One call made all the difference," he told The Regina Leader-Post in 1996. "You can't quarrel, but it was terrible. It was a legal hold, but they said it was illegal. I could have been standing on the podium, but you can't cry about it."
Even before the devastating verdict, Canadian wrestlers had expressed their unhappiness with the officiating at the tournament.
The team felt European officials, versed in the more rigid dictates of the Greco-Roman discipline, were unfamiliar with the rules of freestyle, or catch-as-catch-can, wrestling. For instance, the Canadians relied heavily on leg holds, only to discover the judges did not award points for the manoeuvre. Canada claimed only one of 18 freestyle medals awarded at the 1936 Games, a bronze for Joseph SCHLEIMER, a lightweight from Toronto.
Mr. PETTIGREW retained his amateur status after returning from the Games, continuing to dominate his weight class in Canada. He stepped away from the mat as a competitor in 1940, having won five national championships. He was also known as an eager participant in exhibition matches, willing to take on all comers.
"I liked wrestling more than eating," he once said.
John Vernon PETTIGREW was born on March 30, 1908, in Durham, Ontario He moved with his family to Biggar, Saskatchewan., two years later, before settling in Regina in 1919.
Wrestling was perhaps a natural sport for a pint-sized boy born as part of a baker's dozen brood of PETTIGREWs. He learned the formal rules and tactics of the sport at the old Young Men's Christian Association in Regina, "a stinkin' Y with a pool as big as my kitchen," he told the Leader-Post.
Wrestling was conducted in a small basement room reached by a long flight of stairs. "It was never washed. No wonder we got big scabs on our knees."
He claimed his first Dominion featherweight crown in 1933 and dominated his weight division in Saskatchewan, where he won 10 provincial championships.
He was accompanied on the long journey by train and ocean liner to Germany in 1936 by fellow Regina wrestler George CHIGA. A 210-pound (95-kilogram) heavyweight, Mr. CHIGA dwarfed his featherweight friend, who weighed closer to 134 pounds (61 kilograms).
One of the more memorable experiences in the athlete's camp was Mr. PETTIGREW's first viewing of that science-fiction dream called television. He also met the great American track athlete Jesse OWENS, whose humility and friendliness in trying circumstances Mr. PETTIGREW never forgot. Like many of the athletes, however, Mr. PETTIGREW remained unaware of, or unconcerned about, the intentions of the Nazi regime, for which the Games were a propaganda exercise.
A first-round victory over Karel KVACEK of Czechoslovakia impressed Canadian Press correspondent Elmer DULMAGE, who wrote that Mr. PETTIGREW "gives a pretty fair imitation of lightning."
The Regina wrestler defeated Marco GAVELLI of Italy and Hector RISKE of Belgium, but was pinned at two minutes, 13 seconds of a fourth-round match by Francis MILLARD of the United States. The controversial disqualification against Gosta JONSSON of Sweden eliminated Mr. PETTIGREW from the medals. Kustaa PIHLAJAMAKI of Finland won the featherweight gold, while Mr. MILLARD took silver and Mr. JONSSON got bronze.
Mr. PETTIGREW retired from wrestling not long after joining the Regina fire department in 1939. He retired as battalion fire chief in 1973. He then worked part-time at a local funeral home, which years later would handle his remains.
Mr. PETTIGREW, who died in Regina on October 29, leaves a daughter and two sons. He was predeceased by his wife Jean; by his eldest son, Robert; and by all 12 of his siblings.
In all the years since leaving Berlin, he never quite overcame the sense that he had been robbed of a chance for an Olympic medal. "It always bugs you," he said.

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RISTIC o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-22 published
SOLAJIC, Zoran
Zoran died peacefully at home with his loving wife Maja and daughter Ana by his side on Wednesday, May 21, 2003 at the age of 53 years. He is loved and will be greatly missed by his father-in-law Mirko RISTIC of Belgrade, Jeff ROBERTS and many relatives, Friends and colleagues. The family will receive Friends at First United Church, 397 Kent St. Ottawa on Saturday from 12: 30 until time memorial service at 2 p.m. Those wishing may make memorial donations to the Cancer Research Society, 305-200 Isabella St. Ottawa, K1S 1V7. Condolences, donations or tributes may be made at www.tubmanfuneralhomes.com.

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