Lives Remembered: Jack Katz

April 2017
by Teddy Katz

Jack Katz: Born June 27, 1931 in Hamilton. Died Nov. 19, 2016 in Hamilton.

When my dad passed away, it left a huge void, but what was amazing to see was the response inside and outside the Jewish community. Many came up to my brothers and me to tell us ‘they don’t make them like your father anymore’. Many others used the word ‘mensch’. It didn’t matter who you were or what your position, my dad would take the time to chat and to offer help if requested. He was the personification of love. He would strike up a conversation, smile and take an interest in what was going on in your life. It is why many people tell me they felt close to him and really felt his loss.

Parkdale was the offshoot of the family business known to many in the Jewish community, Hamilton Auto Parts, started by my father’s hero — his dad Sam. That store amazingly spawned close to 30 other businesses and rival auto parts stores throughout the city. 

My father dropped out of McMaster University after his first year so he could work there alongside his father, brothers, sisters, and cousins. To him, this was the best place in the world to be because as he told me a few months ago, family was “everything”. Just ask his wife of 62 years Barbara or any of his five sons, or 19 grandchildren or great-grandchildren whom he considered his biggest dividends and his greatest legacy. They’ll all concur. Dad was our biggest cheerleader and couldn’t spend enough time with each and every one of us and the family.

The youngest of seven children, my dad Jack learned hard work and discipline from his father and mother Sam and Mary, who arrived in Canada from Poland with next to nothing. Sam worked as a tailor, making suits when he first arrived in the country. He also delivered fruits and vegetables door to door and then he started what became the thriving auto parts business.

For Sam, the Adas Israel Synagogue was also a big part of the family, a sentiment that rubbed off on all his children. Oldest son Nate became the patriarch and helped run the men’s club brotherhood social, the Adas Israel’s biggest fundraising event soon after Zaide Sam passed away. When Nate passed away 17 years ago, my father stepped into Nate’s shoes and was a one-man show running the brotherhood event. It was his way of staying close to the family and its roots.

As he became frailer and could barely muster any energy, it was amazing to watch my father still trying to organize the annual fundraiser this past November. He couldn’t do or say a lot, yet he tried to take part in the meetings.  

His dedication taught us another important lesson: that it’s never too late to write an amazing final chapter. At the same time, my dad gave my brothers and me marching orders at his bedside, including his wish that we remain united above all else. For him that meant one thing: “unconditional love” for family.

If any of the boys had issues with one another, he always played the role of peacekeeper and instilled the value that it’s family above all else. He gave us all one last amazing gift and lesson when he summoned everyone into his bedroom on his final Sunday.There were about 30 of us in his condo — all of his sons and their families. One by one, he called us to his side and gave us all a hug and kiss and went on to tell each and every one of us why we were so special in his eyes.

We would say, “We love you dad” and he would respond, “I love you more”.

He showed such incredible strength of character and his humour, saying “I’m not going anywhere”. He wanted the whole family to be by his side so there was nothing left unsaid and he could say goodbye in his special Jack Katz way.

One of the last things he said was to my brother Brian, who was stepping in to help run the Adas Israel fundraiser for him this year. He once again showed his unending dedication to family and the community by asking, “how many new tickets have we sold.”

Dad, you will be missed but never forgotten.


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