HALIFAX — When Harry Levine, right, died in Fredericton on April 1, the community, Jewish and non-Jewish, lost a man who would never take no for an answer, who always had a charitable ticket in his pocket and who generated thousands and thousands of dollars for community projects.
A long-time Rotarian, the retail giant always said, “Charity is part of my life. What better goal could a person have?”
He was renowned for his efforts on behalf of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital, Rotary Camp for physically challenged youth, the YMCA and the Salvation Army, as well as for chairing United Israel Appeal, United Jewish Appeal and Israel Bonds drives on many occasions. He was a major influence on the renovation and enlargement of the Sgoolai Israel Synagogue, both in spearheading the fundraising and overseeing the expansion.
Levine, 89, operated Levine’s Department Store in downtown Fredericton for more than 50 years, finally closing it in 1990. A major fire destroyed it in 1974, but Levine refused to give up, rebuilding it again into a major part of downtown.
His business associates became part of his family. Daughter Rhona (Allen) Ruben of Toronto said he understood the importance of recognizing and working with each person’s strength.
“Everyone wanted to do business with him,” she said. “He was always fair. And he always empowered his employees, celebrated their successes with them, and recognized when they needed help. They knew they could go to him when they had problems.”
She said he would help people in the Jewish community and beyond. “He loved people and liked to help them.”
Rhona’s daughter, Allana, said that her grandfather was a “builder. He saw the community as one. He did not separate it into Jew and gentile. He saw communities giving to each other.”
She noted how her grandfather called members of the Jewish community each week to generate minyanim for Friday night and Saturday, and how he took an interest in youth by starting a Safe Grad program at Fredericton High School for teens to celebrate their graduations in safe, non-drinking environments.
His dedication to his family and the community around him made Levine an icon in Fredericton.
“He loved music, loved to dance, was always the life of a party,” recalled son Ivan of Fredericton, who, along with Rhona and Harry’s four grandchildren, eulogized him at a packed memorial service at McAdams Funeral Home in Fredericton.
“He had a profound love for all of us,” Allana said of the family. “For the grandchildren, he modelled leadership, and showed us how to have a love for people. When he died, all we heard from people at the ceremony and at the shivah house was how everyone loved him and he loved everyone.”
Levine served as president of B’nai Brith, Sgoolai Israel Synagogue and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce. Among his awards and recognitions, he was one of the first recipients of the Fredericton Distinguished Citizens Award, the Governor General’s Award for Volunteering, and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award. Rotary twice honoured him with the distinguished Paul Harris Fellowship Award, in recognition of a lifetime of service to the Fredericton community.
Michael Hines, president of the Rotary Club of Fredericton, recalled Levine once sold 400 tickets at $100 each to help fund the Rotary Camp.