Calgary Herald from Calgary, Alberta, Canada on October 10, 2003 · 3
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

Calgary Herald from Calgary, Alberta, Canada · 3

Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Issue Date:
Friday, October 10, 2003
Start Free Trial

A6 CALGARY HERALD Friday, The casket of Israel Asper is carried to his gravesite at the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery in Winnipeg, Media magnate 'made a difference' More than 1,500 attend service for Izzy Asper ROBERT SIBLEY CanWest News Service WINNIPEG If wenty years ago, as ma meuia empire ue-gan to expand, Israel Asper was asked in an interview how he wanted to be remembered. He replied: "He made a difference." Thursday, more than 1,500 people family and childhood friends, business partners and politicians, musicians and ambassadors attended a service at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in this Prairie city to show that he had, indeed, made a difference. Asper, the colourful media magnate whose four-decade career took him from practising law and leading Manitoba's Liberals to the high-flying life of international financier, and the mogul who created Canada's third television network and dominated Canada's newspaper industry, died Tuesday. He was 71. Judging by the numerous testimonials delivered at Thursday's service, he will not soon be forgotten. Perhaps, though, Ron Polinsky, a longtime family friend, said it best when he reminded the audience, which included numerous dignitaries both Prime Minister Jean Chretien and prime-minister-to-be Paul Martin, as well as Alliance Leader Stephen Harper, to name a few that while Asper was well-known for his entrepreneurial accomplishments and philanthropic generosity, there was a private side to the man that, arguably, made him even more worth remembering. "We knew him as a man with an unwavering commitment to his friends, a man who was so proud of his family," said Polinsky. "I've lost the best friend anybody could hope to have." Similar sentiments were heard repeatedly, both before and after the hour-long ceremony. People spoke of Asper's abiding friendship and unquestioning generosity, his tough-as-nails business style and his quick willingness to attack those who unjustly slandered IsraeL In particular, his philanthropic efforts on behalf of the city were widely praised. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer described him as the province's "greatest champion." "He changed the face of the city," said Susan Thompson, a former mayor of this city of 700,000, referring to Asper's funding for a new ball park, a business schooL a medical research centre and, his latest project, plans for a human rights museum Rabbi Alan Green, who led the service, summed it up this way: "He was one in a billion . . . It doesn't seem possible that we October 10, 2003 Leonard Asper, left, and David the coffin of their father Israel will see his like again." No doubt, Asper would have enjoyed the recognition: He was a man, as many mentioned, who loved life in all its variety from refusing to tolerate nonsmoking edicts that interfered with his enjoyment of cigarettes to chasing around New York and Chicago in the wee hours to find the last open jazz bar. And he would have probably appreciated the ceremony itself. While following Jewish tradition in its sparse simplicity there were, for instance, no flowers to distract mourners from remembering the man and concluding with the haunting voice of the cantor performing El Moleh Rachamim, or Prayer for the Dead, echoing off the synagogue's high ceilings, there was a slight difference from the norm To remind people of Asper's love of jazz, a three-piece combo led by longtime friend Ron Paley played some of his favourite pieces: George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Moe Kauf-mann's Swinging Shepherd Blues and, not to be forgotten, Gershwin's Summertime. The testimonials of Asper's own children were equally evocative. Leonard Asper, the president and CEO of CanWest Global, referred to "my dad as my business and life mentor," adding that while his father "occasionally walked with princes, he never lost the common touch." "His generosity knew no bounds. Only God knows how many musicians' careers got a kick start with a cheque from him," Leonard said. He said his father was unyielding in his support for the Zionist cause. "My father believed passionately in peoples rights and freedoms, and he knew the importance and fragility of these principles," he said. "He knew how to love. He knew how to create. He knew Top News 1SRAKL A S V Y" John Woods, CanWest News Service Asper, centre, prepare to carry Asper. how to give." Daughter Gail Asper said her father instilled in her the desire to dream great dreams and treat life as a grand adventure. "He taught me to try everything and see everything and never be afraid to take outrageous chances. "How lucky I was to have a Renaissance man for a father," she said. David Asper, the eldest son, chairman of the National Post and executive vice-president of CanWest, described his father as "loving, but tough," a man who "always believed success was the product of hard work." David recalled his father's devotion to the cause of human rights. "He believed you could build a Garden of Eden in the here and now." But, amid the testimonies to Asper's philanthropy and moral principles, another theme emerged, one that, perhaps, underscored the other values and principles of his life: namely, the man's sense of place. One of the more intriguing aspects of Asper's life is that he stayed in Winnipeg with his media empire. In the words of longtime friend, Justice Guy Kroft, a board member of the Winnipeg Foundation: "CanWest doesn't make sense in Winnipeg, quite frankly, but there was no way he was going to leave." The evidence is scattered throughout Winnipeg in the buildmgs and projects that came to fruition through his efforts the CanWest Global Park, home of the local baseball team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes; the Asper Jewish Community Campus; the Asper Centre for Entrepreneur-ship at the University of Manitoba, to name a few. A longtime friend, Bernie Lofchick, who owns the Midland Appliances chain, said it best: "Izzy was a grateful man. This was where he found his place in the world" 1 v. if';. . - - : tfMikT K R 1 9 3 2 2 0 0 3 ' 1 - "f . " Thursday. Media mogul and .-; Vi-za'. 1 v- Winnipeggers line the sidewalk outside the city's Shaarey Powerful mix with ordinary at farewell HARVEY ENCHIN and GLENN JOHNSON CanWest News Service WINNIPEG Politicians and business giants stood shoulder to shoulder with ordinary Winnipeggers and the family of Israel Asper to say a final farewell to the philanthropist and media mogul. One woman said she felt drawn to go to the synagogue and listen to the service from outside, where she was joined by as many as 150 others. Some stopped as they jogged by, some cycled, others drove. There were seniors with walkers. Some brought lawn-chairs. "The fact that so many dignitaries have come to pay their respects is a testament to Mr. Asper's many contributions to Winnipeg and to Canada," said Maria Knaus, a hospital worker who listened to the funeral ceremony standing on the front lawn of the synagogue. Almost on cue, the leaves from the stately elms around the synagogue began raining down as Asper's simple wooden coffin, adorned with the Star of David, was carried up the steps where inside, some 1,500 mourners began taking their seats more than two hours early for the service. Outside, private security guards augmented the services of both Winnipeg police officers and several plain clothed RCMP officers, mainly on duty because of the prime minister's participation. Lines of limos, Mercedes, BMWs and the occasional pick-up truck dropped off mourners, ranging from the well-heeled to ordinary citizens who wanted to pay their last respects. The guest list was a who's who of politicians, captains of industry, civic leaders and entertainers, as well as hundreds of friends and neighbours. 1 iffl M II jg -am' I philanthropist Asper died Tuesday r I , I' TV host Mike Bullard was one 5 Jft&l Grant Black, Calgary Herald Winnipeg residents line Wellington Crescent to hear the service. Prime Minister Jean Chretien came in an extended motorcade, bringing with him politicians such as Senator Sharon Carstairs, Veterans Affairs Minister Rey Pagtakhan, retired MP Herb Gray and Irwin Cotler, a Montreal MP and humans rights activist Opposition Leader Stephen Harper joined soon-to-be-prime minister Paul Martin and former prime minister John Turner among the mourners, along with a host of provincial politicians. "Izzy Asper was a great Canadian. He never forgot his roots and the interests of Winnipeg and Manitoba," Martin said as he left the service. I MVP' n ' ss mm r7.. Chris Procaylo, Canadian Press at age 71. Grant Black, Calgary Herald. Zedek Synagogue. John Woods, CanWest News Service of many prominent mourners. ; Manitoba Premier Gary Doer was joined by former premiers Duff Roblin and Sterling Lyon. Provincial Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard and Tory Leader Stuart Murray joined the ranks, as did Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray. Also in attendance was David Radler, a longtime as-; sociate of Conrad Black and a principal player in the sale of the Southam newspaper chain, including the Calgary' Herald, to the Asper family firm, CanWest Global Communications. Former premiers Frank McKenna of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia's Gerald Regan came to pay their respects. Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Peter Liba, a longtime Global em-! ployee and friend for more! than 30 years, came to say goodbye. , Broadcast industry col-; leagues and competitors were well represented by Ted! Rogers and Phil Lind from' Rogers Communications, Jim; Shaw and Jim Shaw Jr. of Shaw; Communications, Ivan Fecan,' CEO of Bell Globemedia' (owner of the CTV Network! and The Globe and Mail news-! paper), John Cassaday, CEO of Corus Entertainment, and Jay Switzer,CEOofChumLtd Global television host Mike! Bullard and TSN sportscastdr; John Wells, a Winnipegger,; also attended : !' Former business partner Gerry Schwartz, now CEO of Onex Corp., was there with! his wife Heather Reisman,; CEO of the Chapters-Indigd; book store chain. ' I ' i k '

What members have found on this page

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 20,900+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the Calgary Herald
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free