After arriving from the Holocaust penniless, Herschel Perl successfully built the first kosher commercial butcher establishment in Toronto, Perl’s Meat. He eventually grew to become Ontario’s biggest Kosher meat supplier across the entire province. He was strong, resilient, and above all compassionate. We are surely going to miss him. May his children see nechama (comfort) very soon.
Herschel Perl, the man referenced in the obituary above, is my father. He passed away about two months ago at the age of 90. As the obituary indicated, my father was well known for his successful meat business, which became an iconic landmark in Toronto. Almost everyone who shopped at Perl’s felt that they knew its owner, Mr. Perl. He had a way with people, enjoyed conversing with his customers, and took great pride in feeding the community. But his children, Cheryl, Benzion, Shaindy, Chaim (who sadly passed away just a year ago at the age of 52), me, and Debbie, knew him as the strong, resilient, indomitable, flawed, and remote man that could both inspire and frustrate.
True to the man that he was, my father remained sharp and lucid right to the end. He was aware of who came in to visit him in the hospital, communicating with his eyes and hands when the respirator rendered his voice useless. He never complained in the hospital and only rarely during his life, this in spite of the many tragedies in his life that would have felled a more ordinary man. He had a will of granite, impervious to the slings and arrows of life, or so it seemed. He survived the Holocaust, during which he lost four siblings and a stepmother.
After arriving in Canada with just $24, he built up Perl’s Meats, without the advantage of language or family. He must have harboured a tremendous amount of pain that, buried deep inside, rarely came to the surface. I forgave him for not being there for us as children, spending 18 or more hours a day at work, sleeping on the bloodied white butcher aprons in the store rather than at home; for being a formidable and sometimes frightening presence. I forgave him because the amount of pain that he endured with dignity, and his achievements, which were gained in spite of the monumental obstacles, made me admire him more than anything else. Reflecting back now, I wish he had more joy in his life. But he died with great pride and a sense of triumph at knowing that, as the lone survivor in his family, he brought new life into the world that reaffirmed the importance of life, when death had so often stared him in the face.
Please join me on a journey of my father’s life. I hope you find it inspirational and meaningful.