Ilana Shapera

My Story...

A tribute to my grandfathers, Monty Shapera and Ted Jacob

This is a tale of two grandfathers: Papa Monty Shapera, my father's father; and Ted Jacob, my grandmother's second husband. Both men have passed on; both have left a rich legacy of kindness and generosity. It is a privilege as their granddaughter to honour them through the Endowment Book of Life.

Monty Shapera was born in 1925 in Emerson, Manitoba. He was the son of George and Gertie Shapera (née Shnier). George came to Canada from Austria; Gertie from Russia. George was a brilliant man, an engineer who needed to give up his practice because of his poor eyesight. Gertie was a beautiful seamstress who worked in the Eaton's hat department. They moved to Emerson to open a general store. The business ultimately closed when farmers to whom George had extended credit were unable to pay because of a failing economy. George and Gertie along with their children, Monty, Cliff, and Shirley, moved into Winnipeg where George opened U.N. Luggage.

Monty served in the Canadian army for some of World War II, stationed in Halifax. He was driven and self-reliant. He worked very hard to put himself through dentistry and then through an oral surgery specialization at the University of Toronto.

When Monty returned to Manitoba in 1951, he joined his bother Cliff's dental practice in Flin Flon. He had married my grandmother Rita Silverman in 1949 and they had three children: Nolan (my father), Caryn, and Blair. In 1958 Monty and Rita decided to move to Winnipeg where the kids could get more of a Jewish education. Monty set up a practice in west Winnipeg, later moving to the Courts of St. James. The family lived in Garden City for a while, and then moved to River Heights.

When Papa Monty died in 1990 at the age of 65, I was barely two years old. I am told his funeral was huge — hundreds of people came to show their respects for a man who devoted many hours to community service. He was active in the Alpha Omega Dental Fraternity, the Shaarey Zedek Brotherhood, and Rossbrook House. He made his greatest mark, though, as President of Kiwanis in Winnipeg and as the Lt. Gov. of Kiwanis for Western Canada. Aside from being a leader, he liked to roll up his sleeves as a volunteer. For instance, he used to collect parking fees for the Kiwanis — in all weather — from people parking at Jets and Bombers games. He attended games, too. He was a big-time sports fan!

He was known as a great public speaker. More privately, he was known as a kind dentist who would selflessly offer free dental work to those in need. As a dentist myself, I am proud of the generosity he demonstrated.

When Papa Monty died, my grandmother Rita moved to an apartment on Stradbrook to downsize. One day while walking home from grocery shopping, an old friend recognized her and decided to call her for a date — Teddy Jacob. Rita and Teddy had actually dated once before, almost 50 years earlier. (It was a terrible date, my grandmother recalls.)

This time around, Teddy had been divorced for some time, and asked my grandmother out for coffee. Their friendship became a romance and in 1996 they were married, and suddenly I had a new grandfather. Teddy was born in 1927, the son of Ben and Dora Jacob. He grew up near the old Jewish orphanage with his siblings Minnie, Helen, and Nathan.

In his late teens, Teddy looked to enlist in the Canadian army to fight in the war. He was rejected because of his poor eyesight. Still wanting to help in the war effort, Teddy volunteered to be part of a U.S. government experiment, permitted by the Canadian government on Canadian soil — the details of which remain unclear.

Teddy's family was a partner in the very successful clothing business, Jacob Crowley, and Teddy had four children: Lisa, Jinny, Gary, and Sari. After a terrible year when his marriage fell apart and his brother and father died, Teddy decided to sell his share of the business and retire at the age of 45.

While retired, Teddy never sat still. Among other activities, he enrolled in cooking and bartending courses. He loved to cook, walk, travel, and paint, and he golfed virtually every day of the season at Glendale. He was also an active member of the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club, where he used to make potato latkes for the members on Channuka. He was a kind-hearted jokester who lived for the moment. He started downhill skiing in his 50s, and tried water skiing in his 70s.

He dreamed aloud about opening a bed-and-breakfast, and tried to get a job as a cook in his 70s at a restaurant in Winnipeg Beach (not for pay, just for joy). An offer finally came, but by then he was too sick to say yes.

Teddy (I called him "Tweetie" when I was little) was a sweet man who was a wonderful partner for my grandmother and who accepted me and my sister Tali as if we were his original granddaughters. My grandmother describes her marriage with Teddy as "perfect".

I believe we are all products of our ancestors and of those who nurture us. While I didn't know Papa Monty for long, and Teddy died while I was in my teens, I sense their influence in my life and I am honoured to celebrate them both.