In Memoriam
Harold H. Mostow
OCTOBER 4, 1925 – SEPTEMBER 21, 2003

Eulogy delivered by Morri H. Mostow,
at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, Winnipeg, Manitoba

My father Harold Mostow was quite a guy. In fact, he was one of the most remarkable men I have ever known. In just 77 years, he accomplished more than I, and I dare say most people, could ever hope to manage in two lifetimes. Best of all, he had a great time doing it.

The youngest of 5 children, Dad was only 10 when his father died. His mother had to go out to work and the family fell into virtual poverty. It must have been a hardscrabble existence in North-end Winnipeg. From all accounts, Dad was a tough kid who could hold his own in a fight. From the age of 12, Dad did odd jobs to help his mother out and finally left high school early to work as a waiter and short-order cook on the railroad. Although that job lasted less than a year, it provided him with a lifelong dispensation from ever having to lift a finger in the kitchen.

Anyone who has ever met my father has fallen under his considerable charm. Yet, he was a force of nature, with a strong personality. A friend from university, whom I invited home for dinner from time to time, once remarked that Dad took up all the space in the room. Dad was an autodidact and it’s a testament to his erudition that he would certainly know what those words mean. He read widely and had a better grasp of politics, economics and their practical application than I have mastered … even after studying those subjects at university. He could hold his own in any discussion, with reasoned and considered judgments on a broad range of issues.

And he had street smarts, plenty of them! That, combined with a powerful intellect, boundless energy and an enormous capacity for hard work earned him, in the early years, a reputation as the Best Men’s Clothing Salesman in Western Canada. Later, he went on to build two successful businesses – Alliance International and Canadown. Those 13 years, he told me just a few weeks ago in hospital, were the best years of his life. In his business dealings, Dad had the highest standards of trust, ethics and fair dealing. No one ever felt cheated by my father, no matter how tough the negotiations. And no one ever cheated him, at least not more than once. His words of wisdom to us were: “Always leave something on the table.” And his other trademark quip, “Show me the Money!”

Dad and my mother Lillian made a dashing couple for 60 years. In October, they would have celebrated their 56th year of marriage. When we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary as a joint simcha with my wedding to my husband Doug, Dad remarked that he and Mom had really only been married for 25 years, because he had been away travelling on business half the time. Growing up, people would sometimes ask me if Dad was in town. Being the self-absorbed kid that I was, I would flippantly reply: “I’m not sure.” But for Mom, it was like being on a constant honeymoon. Our next-door neighbour, Judy Omson, once told me she always knew when Dad was in town by the big smile plastered on Mom’s face.

Although Dad was “on the road” a great deal when my brothers, Michael and Syd, and I were growing up, he did it for us, and for Mom. Providing for his family, making sure we had all the advantages that he had lacked, was his primary goal. And he succeeded magnificently. He was indulgent with all of us. I don’t ever remember him denying me anything. All children in a household have their own unique childhood experience so I can only speak for mine, but for me, Dad created a haven of security, a charmed circle where anything was possible and all problems and troubles could be solved. He was my safety net.

For the rest of the extended family, Dad was known as “The Rock.” He was generous with his time, energy and money on their behalf. For years, he provided financial support to and visited his older brothers in Montreal and New York. He looked after his two elderly cousins, the Pack sisters, in Winnipeg. He made it possible for the surviving sister, Minnie, to live in her own home for the last 10 years of her life, arranging home care when she became bedridden after a stroke, supervising the staff, going to bat for her when the system threatened to institutionalize her. Even grocery shopping for her every week.

When my daughters Cassandre and Clotilde were born, life with my parents took a new and wonderful turn. For the first time, I was invited to join them on their winter vacation in Maui – as the escort for their grand-daughters, a role I was more than glad to play. And what happy weeks and months we’d spend in that tropical paradise, year after year, with Baba and Zede. Since we lived in Montreal, it was a very special way for my children to get to know their grandparents.

And then there were the parties. Both my parents love to party and to dance. They threw fabulous dinner dances on almost any pretext – a mortgage burning, their 40th wedding anniversary, my mother’s 75th birthday. So many happy memories.

Although my father worked hard, he enjoyed every minute and he liked to live well. During the years he was building his own companies, he and my mother travelled together “on business” all over the world – to the Orient, to the Middle East, to Europe – staying at the best hotels, eating at the best restaurants. And always coming home with exotic presents for the children and grandchildren. And wonderful stories that my father, an accomplished raconteur, could tell and retell with such panache.

Until the day he died, my father was exceptionally handsome, and dapper. Well-groomed and elegantly dressed – he was in the shmatta business after all! – he always smelled wonderfully of his trademark Chanel. Despite his Clark Gable good looks, he wasn’t vain, though he certainly had cause.

Just last January, I appointed Dad my designated driver on a three-day trip to the rugged rainforest side of Maui. I was there on a travel-writing gig I’d arranged for my husband Doug and me, but at the last moment Doug was detained in Montreal with some urgent client work. So, Dad and I set off for what turned out to be a lovely adventure.

On our way back to the condo where Mom awaited our return, we stopped to have coffee with the Maui Tourism woman who’d set up the tour. I’d only dealt with her by e-mail and phone, and was looking forward to meeting her and discussing the rest of my tour. It didn’t happen. She took one look at Dad and gushed repeatedly, “He looks just like a movie star!” She spent all her time in animated conversation with Dad, as if I weren’t even there.

Harold was such a big presence in all our lives that it’s hard to believe that when the phone rings around 2 p.m. back home in Knowlton, Quebec, it won’t be Dad on the other end, just checking in, as he did every few days.

Dad, we love you as much as you loved all of us. You’ll be with us in our hearts and thoughts forever.

Obituary published in the Winnipeg Free Press,
Saturday, October 4, 2003

October 4, 1925 – September 21, 2003

With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of Harold Mostow on Sunday, September 21, 2003, just weeks short of his 78th birthday. He is mourned by his wife of 56 years, Lillian; his daughter Morri and her husband Doug Long; his sons Michael and Syd; Syd’s wife Magdalena Palmer; his adored grandchildren Cassandre and Clotilde Aras, Kyle Mostow and Mauro Mostow Palmer. Harold was predeceased by his parents Michael and Anne, his sister Syril Slor; his brothers Percy, Sam and Richard.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Harold began his career in the men’s clothing business as a manufacturer’s agent, crisscrossing Canada for more than 25 years. With a sterling reputation for loyalty and honesty, his word was his bond, a handshake all he needed to seal a deal. In the early ‘70s, he established two successful businesses in Winnipeg: Alliance International, a clothing import company; and Canadown, a down coat manufacturing operation.

Harold was a great believer in sharing his good fortune and supported many charities, including the UJA, the Asper Community Campus and the United Way. An active member of Glendale Golf and Country Club for 45 years, Harold was Club Champion in 1964. He was also a member of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue and a Life Member of Hadassah Wizo. An “early bird” jogger/walker at the Reh-Fit Centre, he served on its Board for seven years. He greatly enjoyed his Tuesday luncheon meetings with the Retired Seniors Professional & Business Men’s Club, where he chaired the speakers’ committee. Harold had a powerful presence, leavened with his legendary charm and an ability to entertain with stories and jokes. In short, he was a “mensch.”

Funeral services were held on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, with Rabbi Allan Green and Cantor Anibal Mass officiating. Harold’s daughter Morri delivered the eulogy. Internment was at Shaarey Zedek Memorial Park. Pallbearers were: Harold’s nephews Drs. Elliot and Lawrie Halparin, Josh and Wayne Vickar; cousins Michael Halparin and Ian Kay; friends Stuart Halper and Bill Worb. Honorary pallbearers were: Sandor Guttman, Harvey Kay, Terry McIntyre, Ron Polinsky and Ray Winston.

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