Calgary

'You really never say goodbye': Hyman Belzberg's niece reflects on his contribution to Calgary

Calgary lost a generous philanthropist and a respected businessman over the weekend. Hyman Belzberg passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.

Calgary philanthropist, respected businessman Hyman Belzberg passed away Sunday at age 91

Hyman Belzberg passed away on Sunday at the age of 91 0:46

Calgary lost a generous philanthropist and a respected businessman over the weekend. Hyman Belzberg passed away on Sunday at the age of 91.

Many will remember him from his furniture businesses around Calgary, including Cristy's Arcade Furniture on 11th Avenue. His real estate dealings helped him become one of the wealthiest men in Canada in the 1980s.

Belzberg's niece, Carol Ryder, says success was just the natural result of hard work for her uncle.

"It wasn't that he tried to be successful, it is just that he knew the principle of hard work. He grew up knowing that you worked, and you worked hard and what he did, he did well," Ryder told The Homestretch on Wednesday.

Cristy's Arcade Furniture, shown here in a screenshot from a 1982 CBC report, was one of Hyman Belzberg's many passions. (CBC Archive)

"He was larger than life. He was one of those iconic people that if you close your eyes, you can see their face and listen to their voice. Anyone who he touched remembered him."

Ryder said at his core, Belzberg cared deeply for people.

"He always had a really dry wit and crusty kind of temperament about him that really endeared you to him. He really cared about people. When he asked you something, he really wanted to know the answer."

She says Hyman and Jenny Belzberg were together for more than 67 years.

"Together they were a dynamic duo that accomplished many things in the community," Ryder said.

In the early 1980s, Belzberg was kidnapped by three men in an extortion attempt but was ultimately freed unharmed.

Ryder said she remembers the kidnapping well.

"He was a good target in the fact that he had a steady routine so they knew when to watch him. He had actually been to these people's home to assess furniture, to make a delivery prior to them actually kidnapping him," she said.

"I think it threw a scare into everyone but to the best of my knowledge I don't think it deterred him from living his life."

Calgary business man and philanthropist Hyman Belzberg, shown here in a screenshot from a 1982 CBC report, died Sunday at the age of 91. (CBC Archives)

Belzberg's funeral is Thursday and Ryder says it's expected to be well attended.

"How do you say goodbye to someone like an Uncle Hy, who is larger than life and our family patriarch?" she said.

"You really never say goodbye to people like that. They always stay with you, you always remember them. You remember the things that they taught you and that is the legacy that you keep for them."


With files from The Homestretch