June 29, 1954-April 3, 2017
Kerry Roitenberg left us on Monday April 3, 2017 at the age of 62.
He is survived by his father Shom Roitenberg; his sister Janis; his brother and sister in-law Evan and Audra; and his nieces Lindsay and Jillian. Kerry was predeceased by his mother Sheila and his grandparents Rose and Jack Rittberg and Rose and Isaac Roitenberg. Kerry also leaves behind many cousins and friends, notably B and Jeff.
Kerry was born in 1954 and was the eldest of three. He attended Talmud Torah, Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate and Garden City Collegiate. Kerry was a gifted student and brilliant all around. He was an accomplished bridge player who played in many tournaments as a teen. He excelled at school and was a member of Reach for the Top teams in high school. He’d always wanted to practice law. Unfortunately, fate intervened.
Kerry was quite a musical talent. He joined Cantor Brownstone’s choir at a very early age and eventually was tapped to lead some synagogue services, even before his Bar Mitzvah. On the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah, he had to leave his own party early to attend the dress rehearsal for the show he was doing at Rainbow Stage.
His interests, however, went beyond school and music. Kerry loved sports. Kerry was a lifelong fan of the BC Lions, as they both came to being in 1954. Kerry was also a huge fan of the big bad Bruins in hockey. Underneath the wall hanging depicting a history of Bobby Orr’s uniforms, Kerry slept with a Boston Bruins blanket on his bed for as long as anyone can remember. It was Kerry’s love of sports that gave birth to his nickname: Koach. Kerry was a true coach: leading by example, teaching by doing, and he exemplified NEVER giving up.
In 1974, at the age of 20, Kerry underwent brain surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Following that surgery, but before he was left wheelchair bound, Kerry completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at the U of W. Three years post-surgery, having suffered a few seizures over that time, Kerry was left paralyzed and with some cognitive impairment from one final seizure in 1977. Since 1979, he had been a resident of Luther Home. That is where much of the legend of Kerry Roitenberg begins.
While others may have become sullen or sorrowful after being confined to a wheelchair, Kerry treated life with a sense of humour and positivity. He moved in to Luther Home at the age of 24 and left it last week as its unofficial mayor. Residents and staff gravitated towards him. It became evident that the staff and residents became part of Kerry’s family, and he, their’s. Kerry was at home there, not in ‘a home’, and he was with people who genuinely cared for him, not just as professional care givers. Such was Kerry. Such are the people at Luther Home.
Kerry was fun, whether it was playing a game of cribbage or chess, joking around, or confounding people with his own language of riddles and trivia. To speak with Kerry, especially when he was feeling playful or mischievous, was to have your mental acuity tested as he would use pop-culture references and trivial Hollywood stars of old, as reference points to express himself and tell a story. Kerry never lost his competitive spirit. In a game of cribbage, even establishing a one point lead was cause for a smiling Kerry to taunt with a cry of “SOMEBODY’S LOSING”. And he was insufferable when his Lions beat the “Blue Bumblers” as he called them.
Kerry participated in everything at Luther Home including sitting on the Residents Council. No current resident or staff member goes back to a time “pre-Kerry”, as he’d been there longer than all. The morning of Kerry’s passing, as he peacefully lay in his bed, there was a steady stream of staff and friends to Kerry’s room at Luther Home to say goodbye.
The way Kerry lived his life, the humour and compassion that he displayed in spite of the cards he was dealt, was a gift. He never let his limitations dictate a definition of who he was or who he wanted to be. He created happiness for himself on a daily basis. There were limits as to what he could do or express, but there were no limits as to what he could feel. There were no limits as to how much he could love, or be loved in return.
Funeral services were held on April 5, 2017 at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, officiated by Rabbi Alan Green. Pallbearers were Ian Cramer, Dr. Sheldon Glow, Jeff Hirsh, Stuart Slayen, Daniel Yusim and Norman Yusim. Honorary pallbearers were Randy Cramer and Arthur “B” Hirsh. Art, a million “thank yous” are not enough.
Kerry’s family would like to thank Dr. Heather Domke for her care and compassion over the years. The family wishes to particularly thank the staff at Luther Home. Words can’t do justice to our gratitude for how Kerry was cared for and the quality of life he was afforded for nearly 38 years. To those inclined to donate in Kerry’s memory, please consider donating to the Luther Home Solarium Project.
Kerry, Koach, Uncle Kerry, we love you and will hold you in our hearts forever.