Grandparents: The Gentle Giant

With Father’s Day approaching, I reached out to a few friends to see if anyone would be interested in sharing some stories about an important male in their lives.  

I hope you enjoy this entry written about a man who continues to care for his family, even after his passing. 

Norman Rubinoff

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A photo of my dad and grandfather (Norman), on my parents’ wedding day. 


Norm was as kind and caring a man as one could find but stern in his ways when he needed to be.  He was tall, 6-foot-3, but truly the definition of a ‘gentle giant’.  Always selfless and always putting his family above anything else.

He was the true meaning of a family patriarch.  Norman set the tone for the entire family and led with his actions which is what a soft-spoken person does.  His humility was evident and so too was the respect he commanded from others. The way in which he raised my father is the same way my father raised me and that is why it is important that I do the same when I have children of my own.

I think about him a lot lately.

I am getting married this year and I can’t help but be reminded of how incredible it would be to have him there.


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My grandfather on his birthday, celebrating with his grandchildren.

His sense of humour was his most endearing quality.  Rarely ever did he frown, at least in front of his grandchildren, and would always make it his mission to greet them with a hug and a new joke he had learned.

His influence was his perspective.

My grandfather had an amazing ability to remain even-keel no matter what life threw at him.  For someone that grew up in a time where conservative beliefs dominated most of western culture and having witnessed and experienced first hand persecution and discrimination in his early years, he was an extremely progressive individual.

His belief in basic civil liberties and involvement in a Reform Jewish movement that focused on inclusion rather than traditional gender divide was somewhat ahead of his time and rare for a Jewish Canadian in the 1940s and 1950s.

Settled in Canada, Norman finished at the top of his class and was extremely well-educated.  His dream was to become a teacher but was unable to do so after rules stipulated that Jews would not be allowed to pursue teaching as a career.

Forced to alter his course, he became an accountant and ran his own firm until he retired. Now, two of his grandchildren are elementary and high school teachers, carrying out his dream for him.

In 2005, my grandfather suffered a stroke that would leave him without the movement of most of his body and an inability to communicate strongly with others. A year later, he would experience the passing of his wife.

Despite these losses, he never complained once.  Throughout his 10 years of battling through the effects of the stroke, he always smiled and managed to keep his mind sharp.

He could remember all of the songs he learned on the piano and continued to play for family with his one functioning arm.   He didn’t miss a family function.  And despite a difficulty in communicating, he still mentored people around him.

He faced more challenges in his final decade than anyone in the family but somehow his positivity uplifted us all.


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Norman passed away two years ago but just last week we received a gift from him.  

After settling his estate, it was revealed that he and my grandmother (who passed in 2006) left an allowance in their will for each of their seven grandchildren to be used as a small nest egg as they started families of their own.  A remarkable gesture that is representative of the love and selflessness that he and my grandmother had.

The way in which he raised my father is the same way my father raised me and that is why it is important that I do the same when I have children of my own.


Lainie’s Note: This piece was written by Norman’s grandson, Jonathan (JR).  I met JR eleven years ago when he began working with my husband.  Through the years I’ve heard stories about JR’s grandfather and knew that he was a big part of his life.  

JR and his fiance are very busy with wedding plans, work, and life events, and yet he somehow found time to write this tribute to his grandfather.  Thank you for writing it, JR.  I wish I could have met him.


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