WINNIPEG — Larry Hurtig played a key role 15 years ago in encouraging several hundred Jewish Argentines to make Winnipeg their new home.
He was also a central figure in establishing Jewish group homes for developmentally challenged adults in the community here, and he is being remembered as a man who accomplished great things without fanfare and despite a lifetime of physical challenges.
Hurtig died Oct. 6, as a result of a heart attack. He was 73.
The son of Bert and Rae Hurtig of Thunder Bay, Ont., Larry Hurtig was stricken by polio at the age of 15. He overcame the illness and went on to university in Winnipeg.
A chartered accountant by training, he was in public practice for 20 years. In 1981, he was invited by one of his clients, a property management company, to join the firm as vice-president. When that company went into receivership, he and an associate opened their own company – ASH Property Management and Chartered Financial Services.
Hurtig’s community work began through the Talmud Torah where his children were attending school, when he organized lottery campaigns.
He began volunteering with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg about 25 years ago and served as president from 1996-99. The highlight of his term in office was the inauguration of the Argentine immigration to Winnipeg. He and his son Jack made their first trip to Buenos Aires following up on contacts made by then-premier Gary Filmon with a member of the Argentine Jewish community. That first trip opened the doors to more than 100 Argentine Jewish families who came here.
At first, Hurtig and his wife, Roberta, would meet and greet all the newcomers at the airport – until the numbers were too high. The community as a whole then opened their homes and hearts to the immigrants.
Larry and Roberta were also among the major forces behind the success of the Shalom Residences, where their son Bradley is a resident. Larry was MC for Shalom’s annual lottery and served as its chief financial officer for many years.
Hurtig was also one of the founders of Versatech Industries – a sheltered workshop for people with developmental and physical challenges.
Although he completely recovered from his first bout with polio, he began to experience the symptoms of post-polio syndrome in the early 1990s, and eventually lost the ability to walk. He also overcame a bout with cancer.
His illnesses never prevented him from getting on with his life in business and in community work. In recent years, he used a scooter. And he bore his afflictions with an even disposition and a positive outlook.
At his funeral, his children Jack and Renee remembered him as a warm and loving father who always had time for them and Bradley.