Sheldon Berney

My Story...

I was born in Winnipeg on October 6, 1936. My father had emigrated from Poland nine years before, and had married my mother, Ada Loban in 1935, after she had graduated from teacher's college. She was the fifth and last child of immigrants from the Russian Ukraine and the only one to have been born in Canada.

We lived with my maternal grandparents while my parents worked to establish our family. My father had struggled with a series of jobs, including delivering dry cleaning for Perth's and selling in a candy store, until he began his own manufacturing business, inauspiciously, in my grandmother's kitchen — boiling up lye on the stove to make soap. He made two bars, sold them, made four bars and so on. (The business became Midwest Soap and Supplies Ltd., a going concern which he profitably sold in 1960.)

While both my parents worked to establish the family, I helped my grandmother who neither spoke nor wrote English. In turn, she taught me to speak Yiddish. I attend Luxton school and Yiddish school, took violin lessons and attended synagogue with my father.

In the forties, as our family prospered and grew, we moved house several times, each move precipitated by the arrival of one of my siblings. We stayed in the north end for Cynthia and Naomi, but with Carl's arrival in 1949, we moved to River Heights.

I attended Robert H. Smith and Kelvin schools and celebrated my bar mitzvah at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. I began my community involvement early, leading Boy Cub groups at the synagogue and serving as regional president of AZA. I attended the University of Manitoba and the University of Toronto.

I worked with my father at Reliance Products until he retired and I began the successful manufacture of plastic containers and later camping equipment. The company won many awards for design, and by the time I sold it in 1988, it was an internationally known and respected enterprise.

My wife Carole and I were blessed with two talented daughters, Dawn and Nancy, who added to our family joy with seven grandchildren.

I have continued contributing to business and community affairs for most of my life. I served as chair of the Society of The Plastics Industry, The Manitoba Institute of Management and Youth Presidents Organization (Y.P.O.) I have served on the boards of the Y.M.H.A., CJA and Victoria Hospital.

In the 1990's, I was chair of the Asper Jewish Community Campus Board. I was especially proud to have played a major role in this excellent facility which has been so successful in uniting the Jewish community and reaching out to the rest of Winnipeg. Meeting the challenge of putting a compelling idea into motion, seeing it come to life, establishing something so worthwhile for the future — that process has been very rewarding for me.

Being a member of the Jewish community has enriched my life enormously. I have welcomed the opportunity to repay what I have received.