TORONTO — Wolfe (Wolfie) Zimmerman, the longtime owner of Wolfie’s deli on Sheppard Avenue West, who died March 2 at age 91, is remembered for his devotion to his family.
His daughter, Gila Gelberman, said in an interview that nothing beyond his family was of importance to him. “If every child had a father like him, there would be no problems in the world.”
Born in Poland, Zimmerman, one of eight siblings, survived 13 labour camps, and was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. His mother and five siblings were murdered.
He met and married his wife, Rose – she died 17 years ago – in a displaced persons’ camp. They moved to Israel, and in 1959, came to Canada, where he became a house painter.
Gelberman said that her father died two days after his wife’s yahrzeit, “probably because he tried to make it the same day. He wanted to make it easier for us by having only one yahrtzeit.”
Her father knew that she had been planning to travel to Israel to spend Passover with her children, she said. “I think he wanted us to go. He died [several] weeks before Pesach, so we could still go. He knew we would never have left him.”
Zimmerman opened Wolfie’s with his children 37 years ago, and worked until age 83, when his doctor told him to stop, she said.
“He never complained, nothing was ever wrong. On his last day he thanked God for his life, and said he was coming.”
David Gelberman, his son-in-law, who worked with Zimmerman since they opened Wolfie’s, said that Zimmerman had a charisma that made people feel at home the minute they walked into the deli. “His [love of people] was his best feature.
“What kind of man was he? I’m going to say Kaddish twice a day for my father-in-law. That’s the kind of man I think he was.”
In addition to Gila and David Gelberman, Zimmerman leaves his daughter Toby Richards, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.