The following eulogy was adapted from remarks delivered at a memorial service for Barry and Honey Sherman in Toronto on Dec. 21.
It has been said that a picture is worth 1,000 words.
Today, I see a unique image comprised of thousands of faces. Faces belonging to members of Toronto’s Jewish community, to the community-at-large, to loyal Apotex employees and to a remarkable cadre of this city’s and our country’s political leaders. It is clear that this picture depicts just how much Barry and Honey Sherman were loved, respected and admired by all.
I did not say “all who knew them,” because one of the most remarkable things about Honey and Barry was the fact that whether you were fortunate enough to have personally known them or not, you can be sure that, in one way or another, your life was somehow impacted in a positive fashion through their outstanding compassionate, generous, visionary and often anonymous philanthropy.
Brilliant Barry, a bona fide rocket scientist whose talents were once courted by the likes of NASA, and the eminently vivacious Honey, did so much for so many in this city and across this great nation. Their generous donations were not for the purpose of garnering personal attention or to be in the spotlight. They were two of the most down-to-earth and humble people you could ever meet.
While they could have afforded a much more lavish lifestyle, they preferred to live more modestly and spend big on the causes that were important to them. I still laugh when I recall newspaper reports about Barry Sherman driving around in his “expensive convertible.” Little did people know that this fancy sports car was in fact a Chrysler Sebring, and that Barry insisted on driving it for at least 13 years – or, as Barry called it, until its car mitzvah.
Barry and Honey were known and respected for their humility. Occasionally, they would be convinced to attach their name to a gift or donation that they made, but it was only because they felt it would inspire others to come forward and do the same.
Honey was born in a DP camp, and as the child of Holocaust survivors she was all-too-aware of the threats and challenges faced by Jews. She and Barry were always on the job, as inspiring volunteers and lay leaders, looking for ways to strengthen our Jewish community, and inspire future generations to give back. They both had an insatiable desire to make life better for people here in Toronto, across Canada, in Israel and around the world.
For many years the couple held numerous volunteer leadership positions in the Jewish community, devoting their funds, time and energy to projects at UJA Federation, the Jewish National Fund of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital, Baycrest, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and many other organizations.
The Shermans exhibited and exercised exceptional compassion, vision, kindness and generosity.
However, their generosity was not limited to the confines of the Jewish community. Barry and Honey felt it was imperative to be involved in, and to help take care of, institutions in the greater community at large, such as the United Way, which could benefit those from all walks of life. Both Barry and Honey, alumni of the University of Toronto, were generous supporters of U of T’s pharmacy education and research initiatives. York University also received sizeable donations from Apotex, as did Humber River Hospital.
It would be difficult to find a worthy charitable organization or cultural institution in this city that they did not support.
Their extraordinary generosity had a global reach. No place was too remote and no need was too insignificant to attract their attention and concern. Several years ago, upon hearing that there was a shortage of medicines in Havana, Cuba, Barry personally sent over a 100 pounds of medications and inhalers. Similarly, the Shermans also arranged for much needed supplies to be sent to a children’s clinic in Nairobi. Whenever and wherever a humanitarian crisis hit, you could count on Barry and Honey to help. While Barry and Honey’s philanthropic roots were clearly fixed in Canada, as conscientious, compassionate and generous corporate citizens, their philanthropy was not limited to geographical borders.
Most importantly, both Honey and Barry took a sincere personal interest in the organizations that they were the benefactors of. I witnessed this personally on many occasions. When travelling with Honey in Israel, visiting various UJA Federation-funded projects, Honey would always ask the project leaders thoughtful and meaningful questions so that she could ascertain a greater understanding of what the needs of the organization were and what the best solutions to their problems might be. Honey and Barry were the true embodiment of the Jewish value of tikkun olam, making the world a better place.
As news of their deaths surfaced, UJA Federation lowered the flags to half-mast on its Sherman Campus, named for these two remarkable people. It is a campus that, just a few weeks ago, was a place of joy and optimism at a groundbreaking ceremony. The creation of that campus, like so many other initiatives across this community, this city and this country, was only made possible by the incredible generosity of Honey and Barry.
The Lipa Green Centre, which sits on the Sherman Campus, always played an important role in Honey’s life because, as a youngster, she knew the importance of having access to what are today known as UJA Federation partner agencies. In fact, Honey always credited JIAS, Jewish Immigrant Aid Service of Toronto, with helping her family immigrate to Canada following the Holocaust. Someone made sure her family had a place to go, to meet, to thrive. Now, she felt that she had the opportunity to continue this important initiative and that it was her – and, as Jews, our responsibility – to do so.
In fact, these are the reasons I took on the task of chairing the re-development of the Sherman Campus. I was fortunate to immediately receive the support and encouragement of so many who played vital roles in this grand and invaluable project. We all agreed that we needed a new facility to replace the aging infrastructure, but most importantly, we also owed it to Honey and to Barry, to make sure that their dream of renewal came to fruition. I suppose it was my way of honouring them; of paying tribute for all they had done for so many. Doing it for them.
The Shermans exhibited and exercised exceptional compassion, vision, kindness and generosity that have directly and indirectly impacted and enriched the lives of so many. They were not yet done with their important philanthropic work. They had not stepped down, nor discarded the mantle of responsibility for others to assume. They did not leave us a completed legacy to carry forward – they were tragically taken from us, their family, their friends and their community. It is a loss of epic proportions. We deeply mourn their passing. And we know that their extraordinary accomplishments will live on, never to be forgotten.
Fred Waks is the president and CEO of Trinity Development Group. He is chair of the Sherman Campus leadership committee and a past chair of the Jewish Foundation of Toronto.