Marcia and Aron Raber held hands until the hour Marcia died in 1990. Their final moments together were a metaphor for their marriage - a loving, respectful, and mutually supportive union. Their story is a love story.
Marcia, Mariasha in Hebrew, was born in 1905 in Lithuania to Rabbi Yitzchak and Sara Dixon. Marcia came to Canada with her mother when Marcia was nine months old; her father preceded them and earned money to bring them to Canada. The family settled in Bender Hamlet. Marcia's father worked as a Rabbi, Mohel, and Shochet, serving people throughout the Interlake. Marcia's siblings were Morris, Rose, Eddie, Tillie, Gladys, and Evie. The family was poor and nearly starved in their Interlake shtetl. When Marcia was ready for high school, the family left Bender Hamlet for Winnipeg where her father continued to work as a Shochet. The family lived on Schultz Street while Marcia went to high school and later pursued training as a secretary/bookkeeper. Marcia worked to support her struggling family until she got married.
Aron, known in business as Harry, was born in 1905 to Yitzchak and Bracha Raber in Selish, Ludwipol, Poland, and came to Canada in 1929. The rest of Aron's family stayed in Poland, despite the fact his Raber Zaida and his father's brothers and sisters had immigrated to Winnipeg. His parents and four of his siblings (Leah, Razel, Gershon, and Ya'acov), two sisters-in-law, and a nephew were murdered in the Holocaust. His brother Labish, previously denied entry into Canada, escaped Selish to fight with the underground, later settling in Israel with his second wife; his brother Avrom, also denied entry into Canada, went to Israel as a pioneer on a kibbutz before the war; his brother Gershon was killed in battle fighting with the Russian Cavalry; his sister Bayla escaped Europe and made her way to Israel during the Holocaust.
When Aron arrived in Canada, he went first to Yorkton, Saskatchewan, where he worked as a farmhand as required by the government, while learning English from a minister's wife. Aron came to Winnipeg and took a job at Perth's and also worked in Selkirk in a clothing store. While visiting relatives on Schultz Street, he noticed a young woman washing the windows across the street. That was the day Aron and Marcia met; they fell in love and married in 1934. From that time on, they loved, supported, and respected one another.
With Marcia's help, Aron opened and ran grocery stores on Main Street, then Carlton Street, ultimately opening Harry's Food and Fruit Market on Osborne Street. He became the president of the Associated Retail Grocers, and lobbied against laws that limited the sale of groceries on Sunday. He was well-liked, successful, and hard-working. He had great integrity and was known to grant credit to those who were struggling, and was especially generous to families suffering during the war years, through the polio epidemic, and those who came to Winnipeg after the Holocaust; he did this with Marcia's full encouragement.
Marcia helped Aron with all of the paper work needed to run their businesses, because he couldn't read or write English very well. She helped him in their stores, and always advised and encouraged him, most notably to purchase land on McPhillips Street and to open Raber's Department Store.
The couple had three children: Monte (married to Myrna); Leah; and Carol (married to Arnold). Marcia loved opera, ballet and theatre; Aron enjoyed reading. However, the real focus of their lives was their children. Marcia was a passionate, caring mother. After shtetl living, pogroms, and emigration, Aron said at the end of his life that he never imagined that he and Marcia would leave such a legacy and dynasty of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Neither took each other or their family for granted. There were eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren that Harry and Marcia knew and loved very much. Eight additional great-grandchildren were born after they passed away.
Marcia, Aron, Monte, Leah, and Carol enjoyed Jewish holidays together in a home that was steeped in Jewish tradition. The family enjoyed time together at their cottage in Winnipeg Beach, later in Gimli, and the children always helped out in the store and at home. To Marcia and Aron, nurturing a close-knit family was a priority, as was being involved in community life. Marcia was active with Mizrachi and Hadassah and Aron with B'nai Brith; they supported Jewish and Israeli causes. They attended the Ashkenazie Synagogue and then Beth Israel Synagogue where Aron received many Aliyahs and enjoyed socializing with others at Kiddush on Shabbat.
Marcia was a worldly, cultured woman who was also a great "balabusta." She encouraged her children to be the best they could be, but to be modest so they did not offend anyone about their many accomplishments or possessions. Aron and Marcia showered the immediate and extended family with love, advice, and support. They treated each other's families as one, providing their parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews with whatever they could to improve their lives. It was through their parents' example that Monte, Leah, Carol, and families have carried on the tradition of Tzedaka.
After Carol's birth, Marcia became very ill but it was not until many years later that she was diagnosed with Lupus. She was in and out of the hospital almost every year from 1945 on, but was determined to live as full a life as possible, still cooking for her family and guiding them in their endeavours. In later years, after the children had left home and Marcia's health worsened, she taught Aron to cook while sitting in her wheelchair in the kitchen. Not only did he become a good cook, he made sure Marcia's every need was looked after, even after she went to live in the Sharon Home. As Marcia's health declined, Aron became her advocate. Marcia passed away in 1990 at the age of 84; Aron passed away in 2000 at the age of 95.
Marcia and Aron Raber set a remarkable example, earned the respect and love of all who knew them, and were seen as the matriarch and patriarch of the family. Theirs is a legacy of hard work, Jewish tradition, outstanding character, and deep love.