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Monday July 4, 2011

W. Bernard Herman

Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, businessman. Born March 31, 1911, in Toronto. Died April 7, 2011, in Toronto of cancer, aged 100.

W. Bernard (Bernie) Herman was born in his parents' flat above a downtown Toronto branch of the Royal Bank. His father, Joe Herman, claimed that Bernie was his first deposit, and for his entire life Bernie banked at the Royal.

Joe and his wife Rose, who had fled Czarist Russia at the turn of the century, were determined that their two sons receive a good education. Bernie and his older brother Murray each graduated from the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School. In the depth of the Depression, they established the law firm Herman & Herman.

Bernie's law career was short-lived. Recognizing that automobiles were here to stay, in 1937, he and his uncle Max Gold purchased land across from the King Edward Hotel and it became their first parking lot.

Citipark grew into Canada's largest parking company and later became Citicom, a real-estate development company, with Bernie at the helm. He enjoyed success as a real-estate owner and manager until the end of his life. Admired for his business acumen, sharp memory and boundless energy, Bernie's astuteness at the boardroom table never left him.

A leader and philanthropist, Bernie raised money for the United Jewish Welfare Fund and the State of Israel Bonds campaigns, and later served on U of T's Governing Council. He chaired York Finch General Hospital for many years and became the founding chair of its foundation.

Passionate about people, his friends were of all ages, all stages and all stations in life. He respected young people and their ideas, never preaching or pontificating to them. Renowned for his sense of humour, he regaled family and friends with jokes and stories.

Bernie was a sportsman with a special interest in sailing and golf. He competed and won sailing races on the Great Lakes circuit, and his racing yawl, Bonaventure V, acquired fame as a champion in international waters.

He was a tenacious golfer. Well into his 90s, he could be seen on the practice range hitting balls for hours. His first hole-in-one was made at age 83, and his second three weeks later. When asked about this possibility, Bernie replied: "After the first one, I knew how to do it."

Bernie's first wife, Alice (Allie) Suroff, died in 1993 after 60 years of marriage. In 2000, he married Sharon Flancman. He was a loving father to his daughters Carole, Wendy and Leslie, and was devoted to his 10 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces and their families.

A man who thrived on being productive and vigorous, Bernie endeared himself to those he touched until his death, one week after his 100th birthday.

By Wendy Eisen, Bernie's daughter, and Michael Herman, Bernie's nephew.

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