The Ottawa Citizen from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on July 31, 2004 · 50
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The Ottawa Citizen from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada · 50

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Issue Date:
Saturday, July 31, 2004
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SATURDAY, JULY 31, 2004 E10 THE OTTAWA CITIZEN CITY OBITUARY- MADHU SAHASRABUDHE Ottawa man blazed trail for other Hindus Priest led effort to build temple, founded India-Canada Association a t4A Ar BY BOB HARVEY Madhu Sahasrabudhe, one of Ottawa's leading faith leaders and a Citizen religion expert columnist, died yesterday after a short illness. He was alert to the end, and went out of this life the way he lived it: Surrounded by people, and organizing a new project in his last days. The 81-year-old Hindu priest and retired food scientist was admitted to Ottawa Hospital three weeks ago, and his son, Deepak, said he "had an amazing party" on his first Saturday night in the hospital. "There were probably 35 people in his tiny room. All the grandchildren did small performances, singing and playing guitars. It was a wonderful celebration. "Many hundreds of people have visited. Dad was very alert, with a fabulous sense of humor, and he had a word for everybody," said Deepak. Within a few days of being admitted to hospital, Mr. Sahasrabudhe had turned his attention to the final dome needed to complete the Ot-tawa-Carleton Hindu Temple. 'Many hundreds of people have visited. Dad was very alert, with a fabulous sense of humor, and he had a word for everybody.' DEEPAK SAHASRABUDHE "I think Dad felt his commitment to the temple would be complete when that is complete. He has now organized a group of us to complete it," said his son. Mr. Sahasrabudhe was born in India and earned a doctorate in biochemistry and nutrition before moving to the United States for post-doctoral studies, and then to Montreal in 1956 to take a job with Kraft Foods. His speciality was research on fats and oils, and when the health and welfare department offered him a job, he moved to Ottawa, where he was involved in the development of canola oil. He left that department in 1976 to work for Salada Foods, but moved over to the federal food research institute in 1980 and retired as its director in 1992. Mr. Sahasrabudhe also served as president of the association of professional food scientists, the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology. During his career, he published more than 80 scientific papers. Then he launched his second career: Providing a temple for the growing local Hindu community. When that was constructed, he moved into the interfaith world, and became the president of the Ottawa region's interfaith council. Among the many visitors to Mr. Sahasrabudhe's hospital room was Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli, his co-chairman in Interfaith Ottawa, an idea they launched last year as a way of encouraging local faith groups to stand together and promote respect and appreciation of different religious and cultural practices. When they first came to Ottawa, he and his wife Sulabha were among the very few Hindu families in the city. They started an India-Canada Association to help meet some of the cultural needs of the community, and Mr. Sahasrabudhe started to read Hindu religious texts in Sanskrit so he could conduct weddings, as well as ceremonies of bereavement at funerals. He conducted his first marriage in i960 and went on to conduct more than 250 of them. "Most everybody I know was married by him, including my wife, Susan Miller, and I," said Deepak. Mr. Sahasrabudhe and his wife, Sulabha, were always concerned about others who needed help. Their son, Deepak, counts Padmini Dawson as a second sister. The family took in her and and her sister, Rukhmini, after they were injured in a car crash that killed Padmini's husband, son and mother. Padmini then lived with the family for a time, and is still part of it. Mr. Sahasrabudhe is survived by his wife, Sulabha, son Deepak, an independent television producer, and his two children, who all live on Bowen Island, B.C., and daughters, Jyoti, a food scientist in Calgary, and her two children, and Padmini, and her two children, in Ottawa. The family will follow Hindu tradition. A short funeral will be conducted at 2 p.m. today at the Pinecrest Crematorium, at Pinecrest and Baseline Road, and Mr. Sahasrabudhe's body will be cremated. A memorial service will be held at the Hindu Temple 13 days later. 1 - IT a v rt - V '( i 1 iff j 'T"" 'If : f -ji i. Hi i J 'if ' : - f t ( y a ( ' Jl 1 K ft h r ' ' I . - .-.J- ..... ..v;--"'! t . Ijfc'X- . - I . 1 r -ii- imii.ibli.iiii.)iiMi- -m1tff'" ' - iiimi11lklilMlIMJilh iattMMMyjMaBaMMaMaBHMMMMMM BRIGITTE BOUVIfcR. THE OTTAWA CI TIZtN Pandit Madhu Sahasrabudhe with a statue of Lord Nataraja, Shiva in dance form. Mr. Sahasrabudhe, a Hindu priest, was one of the Death: Victim was a successful woman known for volunteer work Continued from PAGE El By Monday, the family search turned into a police search. OPP officers on ATVs and the canine unit scoured the 28-hectare farm. A police helicopter found nothing on the property. Mrs. Him-melman's 84-year-old mother, Edith Groulx, made sure her grandchildren were stocked with homemade chocolate chip cookies and Rice Krispie squares while they searched, even though she was worried sick herself. It wasn't until Tuesday, when two volunteers in the search party, friends of the family, ventured off the property and along the tracks, that Mrs. Himmel-man was found, fully clothed, face down in the brush. A helicopter could never have seen it hidden behind some trees. There were no obvious signs of trauma. She was a successful woman and well known for her volunteer work, but she had been taking antidepressants. Police didn't suspect foul play. But the killer couldn't fool the pathologists. As in most cases of suffocation, the broken blood vessels around the eyes indicated that someone had cut off her oxygen supply. Compression marks on the neck, invisible to the naked eye, also showed that the death was not natural. Police have physical evidence from the scene that shows she was killed where she was found, but won't reveal what the evidence is. Further tests are expected to show exactly how she suffocated, whether she was choked, smothered or possibly drowned in the nearby marsh. Mrs. Himmelman's body is also being analysed for DNA evi- 4 dence, but, because investigators believe the killer is someone she knows, the findings might not be helpful in court, police say. Meanwhile, investigators have combed Mrs. Himmelman's personal records, including her phone records and paperwork, and dug further into the people in her past: her family, her work and the political adversaries she acquired in her short time as one of the township's first official, municipal muckrakers. Sitting in her sunroom with the fake wood panelling, Edith Groulx bites her lip and buries her face in her fist every few minutes. She catches herself using the present tense "is" to describe her only daughter and switches to "was," and starts crying again. The day before Mrs. Himmel-man was slain, she was sitting in the same sunroom with her mother and daughter TeneaL 20. The grandmother and mother each had a glass of a chardonnay bottled at a Perth winery, while Teneal lay on a couch. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day. They had just come from the graduation ceremonies at Algonquin College in Perth, where the youngest of Mrs. Himmelman's children, Reid, 19, had received his diploma from the carpentry program. All of her children had made it They were all college graduates. When Mrs. Himmelman and her daughter got up to leave, Teneal got her customary second set of hugs and kisses at the door. Mrs. Groulx walked out to the van and told her adult daughter she wasn't leaving with- V out another one from her. "So we had our hug and kiss. She said, 'Oh Momma. I love you,' and I said 'I love you too,'" said Edith Groulx, turning her head to hide her sobbing. "And that's the last words she said to me." The grandmother, whose husband died after a history of heart problems and lung cancer, lives just a few kilometres from the Himmelman farm. Mrs. Himmelman was nearly born on a farm in 1955 when her mother went into labour 10 days before her scheduled caesarean section and she had to be rushed to hospital. The same farmhouse in the sleepy village of Newboyne, south of Ottawa and Smiths Falls, was where she grew up, but she was rarely in the house itself. There was always horses to be ridden in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. She could be found on ball diamonds or practising with the high school cheerleading team. It was the type of tight-knit place too small to even "call it a town," her mother says where there was no such thing as a stranger. She dated, but it wasn't until she took a job as a waitress at a restaurant in nearby Lombardy that it got serious. This young man was a teenager named Fred Himmelman whose family owned the diner. They married on May 28, 1977, in the same small Anglican church in Newboyne where she was baptized. The couple moved to Smiths Falls and started having children. But besides her own youngsters, she began to take an interest in the future of every i child in the Smiths Falls area. Mrs. Himmelman, a graduate of St. Lawrence College in Brockville, worked with kids at the Rideau Regional Hospital. She later helped troubled children in her job with Lanark Community Programs, and sometimes, even brought them home to stay temporarily at the hobby farm, Mrs. Groulx said. She volunteered on the council at the Smiths Falls high school. In the fall, she ran for trustee in the Upper Canada District School Board only to lose by 1,025 votes. The race said a lot about the close ties of the area; her opponent was her sister-in-law's niece. It wasn't until she hooked up with some like-minded citizens after the election that her name become much more public and she developed a few grudges. According to their members, the Montague Ratepayers Association is a group of residents concerned about their tax dollars and government accountability. Their opponents phrase it differently: A collection of sore losers who want to run the township without being elected Mrs. Himmelman helped found the group, along with three other residents who lost in the fall election. In March, Mrs. Himmelman became the group's interim president and soon, small-town politics turned very bitter. "She wanted to see how the dollars were being spent, how they were being spent and if they were spent right," said John McTavish, another member of the watchdog group. Mrs. Himmelman and the ratepayers started scrutinizing the volunteer fire department, a t crew of 25 people who work day jobs and whose only financial payment is a pool of $20,000 they split at the end of the year. In a letter dated March 16 and sent to Reeve Gary Doyle, Mrs. Himmelman questioned why firefighters are allowed to drink alcohol in their association room, why the fire chief doesn't keep a record of his travels in his township-issued vehicle and why the volunteers receive a $500 gift card from taxpayers. "The image the fire department is portraying at this time is not (to say the least) safe or in good standing," Mrs. Himmelman wrote. She had declared political war. At a council meeting in March, a group of firefighters publically offered Mrs. Himmelman their pagers and asked if she wanted to join the department. In April, the firefighters brought forth a motion denouncing Mrs. Himmelman's group as "destructive," and called them "no benefit to the community as a whole." So when the municipal gadfly was murdered, police couldn't ignore the possibility that it was an attempt to silence her. Detectives have interviewed the firefighters as well as the township's politicians. (Ironically, it was the volunteer fire department that drained a marsh near Mrs. Himmelman's body so police could search its muddy bottom.) "I can tell you that Debra Himmelman's murder had absolutely nothing to do with the ratepayers and the fire department," said Chief Ron Haskins. Mr. Doyle, who was also interviewed by police, said he V would be "very surprised" if the slaying was connected to the political rivalry. Police have also questioned Fred Himmelman, the only one at the farm when his wife returned home from her trip to Burger King. Walking up from his barn, shortly after putting his cows away for the evening, Mr. Himmelman told a reporter he didn't "feel like talking" when asked about the investigation. Since his wife's slaying, he's started going to other towns if he wants to buy a Pepsi, he said. "Someone will ask me how I'm doing and it will make me feel worse," said Mr. Himmelman, who has taken time off from his job at the Town of Smiths Falls waterworks. "That's why I don't like going into town. It's the sadness." With the investigation reaching its second month, Edith Groulx grows more anxious. She understands that an arrest won't bring her daughter back, but at least she'll have some closure. It troubles her that her daughter's date of death is reported as June 8, when she knows that's not true. "It's so hard to accept something you don't understand," she said, staring out of her sunroom window. "I hope they find out who it is soon because I wouldn't want this to happen to anyone else." Anyone with any information about Mrs. Himmelman's death is asked to call the Perth detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police at 613-267-2626. r

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