The Bermans “adopted” a second family five years later.
Tragically, the family’s newborn died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the woman was sent back to Scotland, where she met her husband and started her own family.
When Helen learned that the woman’s husband had died, leaving her quite destitute with two young children, she insisted on bringing her back to Canada to live with them. “My father walked her down the aisle,” Shellie recalls.
She told me that those boots warmed her heart more than any old coat could.
My mom always says, says ‘The heart is a muscle that you have to exercise all the time.' Both of my parents were salt of the earth -- their hearts were just massive.” After a long and extremely successful career as founder of Cadillac Construction, the company that built the Eaton Center and Erin Mills, among other Toronto landmarks, Joe Berman died in 2003 at the age of 81, leaving Helen behind. Even after God blessed him with incredible material wealth, he still took the subway to work every day and bought his clothes in Kensington Market,” says Shellie.
Helen had met the woman 15 years prior, before she was married and had children of her own.
She came to Toronto to work as a nanny for a neighborhood family.Highest Form of Giving Joe and Helen Berman, 5’4 and 5’2, respectively -- “tiny people who commanded tremendous respect,” as Shellie describes them -- gave philanthropic support to dozens of organizations, often providing their seed money.The very long list includes: the Nefesh Dovid Yeshiva for the hearing impaired in Toronto; the Reena Foundation for disabled children in Toronto; the Boys Town Jerusalem school for the children of new immigrants to Israel; the first Aish Ha Torah branch in Toronto and the Ohr Somayach Jewish educational institute in Jerusalem.’" Helen now suffers from Alzheimer’s and, says Shellie with a sigh, “she can’t remember all the amazing things she did.She loves to hear the stories, though, just like all of us do.” Shellie has made it her mission to keep the torch of memory lit and to use the goodness of her parents to inspire others.But what Shellie remembers most is not the organizations or the money her parents gave, but the way they did it.