My father, Albert Regenstreif – better known as Al, or, to some, as Boomie – passed away in Montreal on April 14, less than two months before he would have turned 90.
My father was a special guy – loving, supportive, funny, always there for me, my brothers, my mother, and for so many others.
I’m very grateful that my father lived such a long life, so full of vitality until the very end. I feel very lucky that he was in my life for such a long time. His own father, my grandfather, died in 1937 when my dad was just 11 years old. So I got to spend more than 50 years longer with my father in my life than he had with his father.
I inherited some things from my father. My sense of humour, my love of reading, my appreciation of politics, and culture, especially Jewish culture, all came directly from my dad. What I didn’t really begin to understand, until these last few years, was that my love for music must have come through him, too.
In the last few years, he began to sing around the house, almost all the time, and I was astounded at how many different songs, and how many different kinds of songs, he knew and remembered from so long ago.
My father spent most of his working life in service to the Jewish community. He had a distinguished career working for such organizations as State of Israel Bonds, Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Canadian Friends of Bar Ilan University, and, most particularly, the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, where he spent the last 19 years of his career as executive director of the hospital’s foundation before retiring in 1997 at age 71.
During his time at the Jewish General, he managed a capital campaign in 1984 and ’85 that raised $27 million – then the largest single capital campaign in the history of Canada’s Jewish community.
Partly because he was proud of anything I’ve done over the years, and partly because of his own history in service to the Jewish community, my father felt a great deal of pride to see me working in Jewish community journalism.
And I’ve felt so honoured over the years I’ve been editing the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin that he always proudly sent my columns around to so many friends and relatives.
My parents got married in 1948, when my mother was just 20 years old and my father 22. They started out in Montreal and moved to Calgary, where my brothers and I were born in the 1950s.
In the 1960s, we also lived in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary again, and Vancouver again, before the family moved back to Montreal in 1968. Through it all, my parents were always there for each other, and for me and my brothers, always so supportive of whatever endeavours we’ve pursued over the years.
The last few years have presented some very difficult health challenges for my parents.
My father lost a kidney about 10 years ago. Then, about four years ago, his other kidney failed, forcing him onto dialysis at the hospital for four or five hours at a time, three times a week. And, in the past couple of years, it became harder and harder for him to walk very much. But, still determined to get around, he got himself an electric scooter.
Also, about a year ago, my mother had a stroke, from which, thank God, she’s recovered remarkably well and with remarkable determination. But, with me and Sylvie in Ottawa and my brother Ian in Toronto, the day-to-day responsibility for helping my parents was taken up by my brother Arthur, the only one of us still in Montreal.
I can’t begin to express our appreciation for how wonderful Arthur has been and for everything he’s done for my parents – and continues to do for my mother.
We’re going to miss my father always, but we take great comfort in the love we shared and in the memories that will remain with us forever.