Community role model Carol Greenberg will be remembered for her warmth, generosity. Benita Baker reports.
Ask anyone about Carol Greenberg and the words used to describe her are always the same – warmth, generosity, hospitality, wisdom, friendship and family. The beloved matriarch of the sprawling Greenberg clan, “Aunt Carol” to friends and family alike, died suddenly on February 3, 2018. She was 79 years old.
Wife of late Ottawa mayor Lorry Greenberg, the pair met on a blind date when she was 18 years old and married after a short courtship. A Montreal native, Carol relocated to Ottawa and immediately began spreading her warmth and geniality within the local community.
Family was always Carol’s focal point. In 1962, when Lorry decided to leave the family business (Minto Construction Company Limited) and devote himself to time-consuming community service, Carol single-handedly managed the Greenberg household and five children – Rhonda, Jeff, Roger, Stephanie and Heather – all close in age.
“She was a strict mother but liberal and very accepting of our choices,” said her son Jeff. “She just wanted to love us unconditionally.”
Stephanie Greenberg describes her mother as her best friend. “She was a part of my everyday life,” she said. “My mom was patient, kind, encouraging, non-judgemental, considerate, giving and thoughtful.”
Carol’s holiday baking was renowned. Not only did the family come to expect hamentashen on Purim or potato knishes on Rosh Hashanah, but the baking itself also became an anticipated social event where friends and family gathered in the Greenberg kitchen to schmooze and bake together.
“Family and friends were the most important thing to her,” said niece Marion Greenberg. “She was a warm and caring person who loved the warmth of bringing people together. You were always welcomed in her home.”
Carol revelled in her role as family matriarch. Holiday meals were legendary. It was not unusual for 30 to 40 people to be seated at the table. “She loved her family above all,” said Marion. “Sometimes the only time I would see my extended family was at Aunt Carol’s table. Who knows what will happen now that she is not around.”
Carol was more than an aunt to her many nieces and nephews – she was like a second mother and friend to them, providing advice, guidance and support to anyone who asked.
“She was a force to be reckoned with when it came to her family,” said Marion. “She was formidable. She was like a mother bear protecting her cubs. She was always there for you.”
Never one to seek attention, Carol quietly gave her time and her money to both friends and organizations. For years, she performed the most sacred of Jewish rituals tahara (purifying the body of a deceased) for the Ottawa Chevra Kadisha. She taught English to immigrants. She was active in the Agudath Israel Synagogue Sisterhood. As both a patron and a board member of the Palliative Care Outreach Program, an organization that relied entirely on private donations, she and her children were instrumental in raising much needed funding.
Jeff describes his mother as “an extremely private person.” He says both of his parents were humble and that the Greenberg children were raised to give without seeking the limelight, to do what you know is right without the need for accolades or publicity.
Messages of condolence on the legacy.com web site reveal how Carol touched the hearts of those who knew her.
“Carol was an outstanding human being,” wrote Amira Meir, whose husband was deputy ambassador at the Israeli embassy. “Smart, kind, gentle and had a huge heart. She loved people and helped so many of them in her very special way. We all loved her very much.”
“She was like a Princess Grace as a young bride and remained with grace all of her life,” said Dorothy Siminovitch of Toronto. “Add wisdom, generosity, humour, integrity and deep loyalty and a window into the character of Carol Greenberg emerges.”
Carol Greenberg is survived by her five children, four grandchildren (Abigail, Elizabeth, Kayla and Maya) and dozens of nieces and nephews. Her legacy to her family and her community is the importance of family. It was also extremely important to her to observe the yahrzeit of family and loved ones. A grateful community should take that to heart – put family first and honour their memory.