Wally Guberman was born in Polona, Ukraine, in 1914 to Aaron and Basya Guberman. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 88. In his life, he experienced joy and tragedy; success and challenge. Above all, he is remembered for his tireless devotion to family.
Wally, his mother, and his siblings Norman, Molly, and Sophie, came to Winnipeg in 1921 to join Wally's father who had arrived seven years earlier. Despite his family's modest means, Wally enjoyed his childhood. He sang in a choir, excelled at tennis, and was difficult to beat in ping pong. He liked going to school, but walked there through back lanes and alleys because he often had to wear his sister's old coat with a fur collar.
Wally left school after grade nine when his father died so he could help support the family.
Eventually he pursued and earned a job in Trail, B.C., in 1941 as a manager in a growing store. While in Trail, he was called upon by a small group of Jewish families in the area to lead services for Pesach and the High Holidays. It was in Trail where Wally met Lil Rose who caught his eye. He asked her out on a date and showed up with a box of chocolates—not for Lil, but for her mother! Wally held a special place in his heart for Lil's mother, Annie Rose. She ultimately lived with Lil and Wally for 32 years.
In 1943, driven by a commitment to his family, Wally returned to Winnipeg to look after Goodwear Glove for his sister after her husband died. The early years of running the business were difficult ones. It was wartime, so Wally couldn't get an adequate quota of leather. He also had no manufacturing experience. With perseverance, a few scraps of leather from other factories, and a lot of hard work, Wally and his sister Molly made a go of it.
Wally eventually got an increased leather quota and was approached by Max White, a seasoned travelling salesman, who wanted to be Wally's partner. They teamed up and the business prospered. Max went on the road and got orders while Wally ran the factory.
Shortly after Wally returned to Winnipeg in 1944, Lil Rose returned as well. Lil and Wally re-connected, started going steady, and married in 1945.
Through 57 years of marriage, Lil and Wally Guberman stood straight and tall by leaning on each other through times of grief and times of joy. They were soulmates. Wally was a generous, gentle, patient, and passionate husband.
After living on College and Smithfield, Lil and Wally raised three children in their home on Enniskillen Avenue: Brian, Sandra, and Marla. "You couldn't top us as a family," says Lil. The house was full of music, love, and laughter as they celebrated each other's company and performed for each other. They also revelled in vacations at Detroit Lakes where they swam, sang, and laughed together for three years with the same three couples and their children: Gertie and Dave Silver; Faye and Av Katz; and Pearl and Kurt Terhoch.
Brian was a teacher and a talented entertainer who performed at the Hollow Mug and appeared as Perchik in Rainbow Stage's Fiddler on the Roof. Sandra was an excellent actress with a deep passion for theatre. Marla is a very talented musician with a great gift for composing her own music. Lil and Wally were blessed with three dynamic, remarkable children. Wally loved being a dad; he was active and engaged.
In 1978, Marla married Henry Berchard. They love living in Victoria with their three daughters: Fairen, Sefirah, and Hannah. They manage their own property appraisal company and enjoyed frequent visits over the years with Wally and Lil in Victoria and in Winnipeg.
Tragedy struck in 1974 when Brian mysteriously disappeared while travelling, and his fate remains unknown. Sandra died suddenly in 1979 of an aneurysm at the age of 28 while working as an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta. Wally was devastated but did his best to focus on the positive and stay strong.
Lil and Wally continued to build a beautiful life together. They vacationed regularly at their condominium in Hawaii. They had an active social life anchored by the "727" poker group that included their Detroit Lakes travel partners mentioned above as well as Kitty and Abe Silver. The five couples were like family, and played cards together for 60 years. Wally also became a Life Master at bridge. He continued to run Goodwear Glove, which had become a very successful company. He travelled frequently and developed many wonderful business relationships in Hong Kong, and often took Lil along.
After many years of partnership, Max White told Wally that he was ready to retire and wanted to be bought out. Their relationship was so close and amicable, that they went together to the same lawyer, agreed quickly to terms, and remained good friends.
Wally ran the company by himself for a few years and then sold it to David Rich of Richlu Manufacturing. David and Wally had tremendous respect for each other and David asked Wally to stay on as an advisor and consultant. He worked there until two months before he died.
In later years, Wally inspired and amazed others with his tremendous courage in facing several health challenges.
He is missed by his wife, Lil; daughter Marla and her family; and many loving relatives and friends.
Wally Guberman was a community-minded, generous man who would be proud of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life and his participation in it.