Jack Shapiro, C.M.

After a lengthy illness, Jack Rae Shapiro passed away peacefully in Toronto on Jan. 17, 2019 at the age of 92, surrounded by his loving family and partner.

Jack was born in Woodstock on June 5, 1926, son of Fanny and Julius Shapiro, who ran a clothing store on Dundas Street. As the only boy among 5 children, Jack felt very special in this warm, loving and vibrant family.

The family moved to Toronto where Jack attended Oakwood Collegiate Institute before enrolling at the University of Toronto, where he studied law and sociology. Jack always had a big social conscience even as a student and became the editor of the campus newspaper. One edition was lovingly entitled “The Journal of Shapiro’s Opinion.” He always had an adventurous spirit and his summers in university were spent hitchhiking across the continent and working for a travelling carnival, where he was in charge of the shrunken heads exhibit.

Jack met his sweetheart and future wife Juliette Paperny of Calgary while at the University of Toronto. Jack worked as a union organizer in Toronto before he and Juliette moved to Regina, where they raised their children. Jack became the long-time manager of Regina News and Mid-Western News, magazine and book distributors, taking on many leadership roles and maintaining a life-long interest in that industry. [Later, he served as inaugural chair of The Walrus Magazine.] Jack concurrently pursued his passions for world politics, human rights and social justice. He was deeply involved in politics, having run for numerous political offices, municipal, provincial, and later, after returning to Toronto, federal. He fought for the introduction of Medicare in Saskatchewan. He obtained a Masters’ of Sociology and Economics, focusing on International Development. His unique background in both periodical distribution and third world development led Jack and his family to a memorable year in Rome in 1967-68, where he worked for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N., launching a multi-lingual magazine about farming practices.

During the Saskatchewan years, the family was surrounded by a rich community of friends, a love of folk music, little theater and social causes ranging from nuclear disarmament to human rights.

In 1969, the family moved to Toronto. Tragically, Juliette passed away from cancer in 1972. This loss deeply influenced Jack’s decades of dedication to health causes. He served as Chair of the Toronto Board of Health before later turning his energies to improving the lives of Canadians suffering from cancer, serving on the boards of Toronto General and Princess Margaret Hospitals and as chair of Cancer Care Ontario. He was instrumental in setting up the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition and helped establish community advisory committees at local hospitals. He was Canada’s Global Cancer Ambassador to the United Nations. He was appointed a Member the Order of Canada in 2003 for his many contributions to cancer research, treatment and advocacy. He received Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. A life-time achievement award was inaugurated in his name by The Canadian Cancer Action Network.

Jack’s summer home near Creemore became a focal point for family gatherings over many years. Jack continued his life-long love of music as a long-time member of a singing group and even recorded his own CD to commemorate his 90th birthday. He was notorious for singing without warning at major family events. He had a life-long passion for travel, including family trips exploring North America in a station-wagon, being among the first Canadians to travel to Cuba and China once such travel was opened up, and hosting annual holiday trips for his ever-expanding family. He continued to travel with Merrijoy Kelner, his partner of 17 years, until just before he was hospitalized with cancer.

Jack was a devoted partner, parent, grandfather and great-grandfather and was loved by his entire extended family. Family reunions either locally or around the globe were his favorite activity. Jack was a mensch and the epitome of generosity. He was inspirational in instilling humanistic values in family and everyone who knew him. He lived his life with integrity, love, optimism, wit and humour and a zest for living each day to the fullest.

Jack was predeceased by his wife Juliette in 1972, and is survived by his partner, Merrijoy Kelner, and a large and loving family, who were always at the center of his life. Daughter Ellen Shapiro, her daughter Sarah Edmondson (Anthony Ames) and grandson Troy, of Vancouver. Daughter Carrie Greschner (John) and their five children: Jeremy Severson and son Jonathan; Leah Greschner; Micayla (Daniel Hayes) and granddaughters Juliette and Isabelle; Sarah Greschner; Mai-Ling Greschner (David Johnson), all of Victoria. Son Daniel (Marie Lannoo) of Saskatoon, and their sons Max Shapiro of Toronto and Cal Shapiro (Sylvie Tellier) of Victoria. Son Paul of Los Angeles (Judy Dryland, Hudson, NY), and their daughters: Hanna Shapiro (Craig Extine) and grandson Lyall of Victoria; and Esme of Brooklyn; daughter Simone Bender (Jordan) and their children Jake and Sophie, all of Toronto. He maintained a close relationship with his step-son, Jonathan Lay.

Jack is also survived by two sisters: Francine Ellman (Florida) and Beatrice Fischer (Toronto); as well as many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his older sister Ruth Singer (New York), and his sister Marion in childhood.

Over the course of Jack’s illness over the past eighteen months, his family, medical team, and caregiver team worked together to support his care and provide as much independence as possible. Tomas Cuidad was Jack’s right hand man for many months, attending to his daily care with great love and skill. Tomas enabled Jack to spend the entire summer of 2018 at his beloved farm near Creemore, his summer home for over 30 years, fulfilling Jack’s dream after many months in hospital. At home in Toronto, Jack received the kind and loving care of Alodie Adriano, Alieza Vina Marie Cala-or and Monica Trotman, among many others. Jack received expert and respectful medical attention from Drs. Sav Brar, Nathan Stall, Jamie Meuser and Steven Fried and compassionate nursing care at Mount Sinai Hospital. The family is so grateful for their responsiveness and support.

Jack’s life will be celebrated at Steeles Memorial Chapel at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday January 20th. Interment and shiva to follow. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society 1-888-939-3333 or another organization supporting cancer care of your choice.

The burial will take place at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, 986 Wilson Ave., Toronto.

The shiva will be held at 77 Avenue Rd. #313, Toronto, M5R 3R8.