Harvey Cogan

My Story...

Nessie and I know that we are truly blessed. We have enjoyed a long and wonderful marriage based on mutual love and respect. We have reaped the rewards of a successful business venture and, most importantly, both of our children, Allan and Sherri, live in Winnipeg with their respective spouses, Shawna and Ron, and their young beautiful families.

My parents, Dave and Bertha (Raizel Sosowsky), were both immigrants from Russia. Bertha, the youngest of five children, came to Canada with her parents, Chaia and Shai Sosowsky. They settled in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) and shortly after moved to Winnipeg. They came from a little shtetl in Russia called Pavolich in 1920. The pogroms in Russia forced my father, David Cogan, to also leave Russia, leaving behind his mother and sister. My grandfather passed away when my father was 12. David, the son of Rose and Yehuda Leib, arrived alone in Canada in 1923. He worked as a clerk in Stonaway, Saskatchewan, eventually moving to Winnipeg where he went into the grocery business.

David and Bertha were married in Winnipeg in 1934. My brother Lou was born a year later. I was born in 1937 and was named after my Baba Chaia. My name in Hebrew is Chaim. In 1939 our family moved to Fort William. The Jewish community in Fort William/Port Arthur was very vibrant. My parents maintained a kosher home and 'benchted licht' every Friday night, and giving Tzedaka was very important to them even though funds were limited. My dad gave me 25 cents for attending shul every Friday night and Saturday morning. At my Bar Mitzvah I read the Sedrah, Haftorah and davened the Musaf. I also gave a three minute speech entirely in Yiddish.

My father worked for his brother-in-law for a short period of time. He then went into the cattle business and then worked for Stitt & Son Clothing for 25 years. My sister Leya was born in 1946 with a severe physical handicap. My mother had to leave Lou and me with our dad for 3-4 weeks at a time to seek orthopedic attention for Leya in Winnipeg. During this time Lou and I ate all of our lunches at Gloria and Abe Bass' home. They were wonderful to our family.

Growing up, I attended Central Public School, graduated from Fort William Collegiate and then went to the University of Manitoba where I lived with my uncle and aunt Galpern. In my early years in Fort William we experienced many personal incidences of anti-Semitism. In Fort William I was active in Young Judea and attended Hebrew classes at the B'nai B'rith Hall. I taught Nathan Stitt his Haftorah as there was no Rabbi at that time in Fort William. As a boy of 13 I bell hopped at the Royal Edward Hotel during the summer. At 16 my brother Lou and I became Fuller Brush salesmen and our father helped out with the book keeping and filling orders. When I was 21 Lou and I moved to Winnipeg where we lived together for three years.

I married Nessie on July 30, 1961 at the B'nai Abraham Synagogue with Rabbi Weizman officiating. Allan was born in 1965 and Sherri was born in 1966. In 2006 we celebrated our 45th anniversary. In 1961 my parents and sister moved to Winnipeg. My dad established David's Men's and Boys' Wear on Marion Street. My parents were loving grandparents to Allan and Sherri. In 1970 my mother passed away. My father passed away in 1979. They were wonderful people.

After moving to Winnipeg I worked at Monarch Life for three years and then spent 14 years at London Life. In 1975 at the age of 38, after 17 years in the insurance business, I decided it was time to go into business for myself. With the support and assistance of my wife Nessie, as well as a partner, Dave Chochinov and his wife Shirley, we purchased Tasty Seeds. We moved the business from a shack on Alfred Avenue into a state-of-the-art processing seed plant in the Inkster Industrial Park. During the summer Allan and Sherri packaged seeds and worked on the delivery truck. We purchased a business that we knew nothing about — took mortgages on our homes and built a wonderful business that we loved. Twenty years later, when I was 57, we sold the business and retired. Our slogan on the bag was 'If it's in the silver bag it's Tasty.'

Retirement has given me the opportunity to do volunteer work. I spent five years on the board of the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, and doing volunteer work for the Combined Jewish Appeal and the Sharon Home, to name a few. I attend the Asper Campus on a regular basis and I am proud to say I have never missed a Y dinner. I also took up golf and I love it. Nessie and I attend the Herzlia Synagogue every Shabbat. In 1991 Sherri married Ron Gall. They have two children, Daniel and Noah. In 1995 Allan married Shawna Cass. They also have two children, twins Joshua and Lindsay. We get a lot of nachus from our wonderful children and grandchildren. They are a wonderful blessing and we cherish the time we spend with them. May G-d bless them.

We enjoy winters in Palm Springs away from the cold. However, we are always happy to return to Winnipeg, the community that we are proud of and that we love.

In 2000 Lou and I visited Thunder Bay with the idea of putting together a project on the Jews of Thunder Bay for the Jewish Museum of Western Canada. We worked with many others to make this project a reality in 2003.

We are pleased to participate in the Endowment Book of Life program and are grateful for the opportunity to make a contribution to the future of the Jewish community. We want future generations to enjoy the many opportunities that we have enjoyed and to harvest the seeds that we planted.