Clara and Abe Kanee, a blend of different tastes and interests, were kindred spirits when it came to matters of family and community service. The needs of others always came first. They willingly gave not only their financial support, but also their time and physical presence and participation. Their home at 99 St. Cross St. in Winnipeg's North End — which they shared with Abe's parents, Sam and Rose Kanee — was always welcoming to family and friends and functioned as an ongoing open house.
Clara was the daughter of Ben and Nellie Dechter (née Prosterman) of Regina, Saskatchewan. The Dechters and the Prostermans had roots in Eastern Europe and Russia. Clara was born in Regina in 1913 and was one of five children. Her siblings were Alice, Fanny, Jack, and Albert.
Abe was born in Melville, Saskatchewan, also in 1913. He was the son of Sam and Rose Kanee (née Lercher) who had immigrated to Canada from Russia and Poland around the turn of the century. His siblings were Sol, Ben, Ricky, and Harry.
Abe and Clara got married at the age of 21 and had one son, Brian of Winnipeg; two grandsons: Jonathan and Sean; and three great-grandchildren of Edmonton, Alberta. Clara passed away in 1986; Abe in 1987.
Clara was quiet and reserved, a devoted mom, a woman of culture who liked going to museums and opera, a generous soul, and a modest leader. She always welcomed visitors with a smile. She was an exceptional cook and a collector of many fine recipes that she would serve when hosting the Dechter and Kanee families and friends in their home.
She often had gifts ready for friends and relatives, and she — like Abe — helped people financially when the need presented itself. And she rarely missed a family simcha, no matter where it was — family was very important to her.
She is remembered as lovely woman with a wonderful smile — someone who always expressed a positive outlook on life.
Abe was a more outgoing spirit — a big personality, bigger than life, a great communicator, and a gregarious storyteller. Abe liked watching wrestling (an activity he shared with his mother, Rose) and going to the track and other sporting events with friends and family. He liked people and was always ready to assist those in need.
Abe grew up in the family businesses. At first the Kanees ran a general store, then entered the grain and feed trading business. They bought a mill in Weyburn, which Abe managed before it was destroyed by fire. The Kanees then bought Soo Line Mills in Winnipeg and grew their specialty baking flour and grain trading businesses. Abe ran the grain trading business (Kanee Grain) and ran the mill when Sol served overseas in World War II.
Abe was an outstanding example of the successful Canadian businessman who, as the child of immigrant parents, developed and learned his skills through fifty years of working with every aspect of his chosen field: the Canadian milling and grain industry. Abe's success and reputation as one of Canada's leading independent grain merchants was based on having developed excellent relationships with people at all levels of the industry — from elevator operators across the Prairies to senior executives throughout Canada and the U.S.
He travelled frequently for business, especially to meet grain buyers in major centres across Canada. He was a champion networker. He held court and entertained clients across the country in places like the Beaver Club in Montreal. Even though he never touched a drop of liquor, he could certainly intoxicate others with his stories, jokes, or simply the twinkle in his eye. He was emotional, authentic, and happy to express how he was feeling. Always with a smile; always in a suit and tie — even on his long train trips to Churchill where he went on business and to visit the Inuit carvers.
In Winnipeg, his haunts were the Salisbury House on Matheson and Main for breakfast, and the Westin at Portage and Main for lunch where he had his own table and a private phone line — he never wanted to be out of touch with business opportunities or his many community interests.
Clara and Abe believed in the importance of giving back to the community. They were not only financial givers but also rolled up their sleeves and worked hard on behalf of the causes and organizations that mattered most to them.
Clara shared her great energy with her community. She was active in Hadassah and with the Ladies' Auxiliary at the Sharon Home, and helped to run the gift shop at Rosh Pina Synagogue, where she went on buying trips sourcing special Judaica for the store.
Abe made an unselfish contribution of his time and energy to many business-related associations, Jewish community organizations, and civic causes. Abe was recognized for his commitment to the cause of the aged. He was especially passionate about and dedicated to the Sharon Home where he served as president for over 20 years, following the presidency of his father and preceding the presidency of his brother Sol. In tribute to Abe after his passing, Dr. Henry Faintuch, CEO of the Sharon Home, said: "The home benefitted from Abe Kanee's ability to understand the changing times and needs for progress. His cooperation and encouragement helped greatly to forge ahead with our dynamic development...". He was active in the Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg and the Princess Elizabeth Foundation. Abe had a special interest in interfaith affairs and had a close relationship with the Archbishop of Winnipeg. His contribution to social welfare activities in Winnipeg included the Winnipeg Civic Charities and he was very close to Councillor Slaw Rebchuk, popularly known as the "Mayor of the North End".
Abe was a consummate collector. He was not only a respected coin collector, he also had a special interest in antique jewelry. He willingly shared his expertise with people who sought his opinion before making purchases of jewelry or rare Canadian coins.
Different in personality, but joined in purpose, Clara and Abe shared a deep love of their son and their extended families and community, continuing the traditions of the Dechter and Kanee families.
L'dor va'dor — from generation to generation — by their example Clara and Abe Kanee continue to inspire through their values of commitment to family, community, and Jewish life; and their embrace of tikkun olam, the Jewish imperative to repair the world.