Community leader and philanthropist Arnon Joseph (Arnie) Vered lost his 15-month battle with pancreatic cancer, July 4. Throughout his illness, he had continued to participate in both his business and volunteer activities, to guide those who sought his advice, and to be a role model for family, friends and community members. Though only 57 years old, Arnie accomplished much and left a lasting legacy.
The Vered name is well known in Ottawa’s Jewish community. Arnie’s parents, Sara and the late Zeev, who arrived in Canada from Israel in 1950, set an example and instilled in Arnie and his brothers, Gillie and Ron, the values of involvement, philanthropy and kindness. Just as they were all involved in the family businesses – Arnon Corporation and Ron Engineering – they were involved in the family’s “secondary business” of helping the community they call home.
“He cared about everything,” said Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, “and his caring was on a heart level, on a strategic level. He was always thinking about how to make things better, how to get the community to be co-ordinated, and how to integrate everyone into the community. And it consumed him all the time.”
Arnie’s leadership and volunteerism was pervasive in the Jewish community. He served as president of the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa/Vaad Ha’Ir (now the Jewish Federation of Ottawa), Hillel Academy, the Ottawa Jewish Community Property Management Board, and as chair of the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (JCC).
In the greater Ottawa community, Arnie served on numerous boards, including the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Ashbury College Board of Governors, the United Way Community Services Cabinet, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health Campaign Cabinet, and the National Arts Centre Foundation Board. He was also a co-owner of the Nepean Raiders hockey team.
Though he did not seek awards or recognition for his volunteerism and leadership, he was honoured on numerous occasions. Within the Jewish community, he received the Freiman Family Young Leadership Award in 1991 and the Gilbert Greenberg Distinguished Service Award, the community’s highest tribute, in 2008.
In 2012, Arnie was honoured by the Association of Fundraising Professionals at the Ottawa Philanthropy Awards Gala as the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser.
And, just this year, Arnie received the Community Leader Award for Ontario from Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards ceremony, February 27, in Toronto. Last October, Arnie was one of eight Ontarians honoured with the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship. Unable to attend the ceremony at the Ontario Legislature due to his illness, Arnie received the medal from Lieutenant-Governor David C. Olney in a special ceremony held at Carleton University in April.
Shortly before his death, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation presented its highest honour to Arnie: the Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka Award. During his cancer treatments, Arnie joined the Foundation’s Champions of Local Cancer Care leadership team and shared both written and video testimonials in order to help others facing the disease in our community.
“Arnie helped introduce a new term to the cancer lexicon – ‘Cancer Champion.’ That is an expression that many of us have now adopted. First, Arnie hoped that everyone battling cancer can be surrounded by a championship team: family members, friends, and health-care professionals like our cancer coaches. And to quote Arnie: ‘Survivor applies to one result. Champion applies to both results … it provides a lot of respect to people doing battle to know that they will always be recognized as a Champion, no matter what the result is.’ Indeed, Arnie is, without a doubt, a true Champion,” said John Ouellette, vice-president, philanthropy, Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
Because Arnie was not able to have his very complex surgery in Ottawa, he “wanted to make Ottawa a centre of excellence for pancreatic cancer, to be able to attract experts here. So, rather than donate a piece of equipment that might become obsolete or simply too expensive to even use here, he decided to establish the Vered Family Chair at the Ottawa Hospital,” said his daughter Danya Vered.
“Our community is stronger today because of Arnie’s passion, commitment and hard work,” said Federation Chair Steven Kimmel, who referred to Arnie as “a great mentor for me.
“He was very passionate about ‘community’ and put 100 per cent of his time and heart into whatever cause he was volunteering for,” added Kimmel.
“Arnie, in his work throughout our community, not just the Jewish community, did so many wonderful things,” said Barry Sohn, Soloway JCC president and COO. “Arnie’s shoes will be very, very, very hard to fill.”
Arnie’s funeral was held July 6 at Congregation Machzikei Hadas and the synagogue was filled to overflowing, with many standing along the walls throughout the hour-and-a-half service. Speaker after speaker – family members, friends, business associates, and fellow community volunteers – talked about his kindness, devotion to others and warm and loving personality. Acknowledging there were many more people who would love to share their memories, Rabbi Bulka encouraged anyone who has an “Arnie story” to share with the family by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arnie is survived by his wife, Liz Adessky; his children, Ariel, Danya (David), Jordana, Alexandra, Michael and Tori; his mother, Sara; and his brothers and sisters-in-law Gillie and Susan and Ron and Jennifer and their families.
Monique Elliot and Michael Regenstreif contributed to this report.