It is with profound sadness that the family of Leo Shearer announces his passing, at the Simkin Centre on November 1, 2019 . Leo lived a long and full life, achieving great success while overcoming many challenges. Words do not do justice to the man Leo was and what he meant to many people. He was larger than life and a true force of nature.
He is survived by his daughters Shelley Shearer-Nelko (Dana), Dr. Ronna Sherman (Joel) and Dr. Brenna Shearer (Stephen). He also leaves behind his grandchildren, Lindsay (David), Riley, Lana, Remy, Hayden, Joshua, Mara, Amy and Sam, as well as his sister Shirley Wasserman, nieces, nephew, great-nephews and nieces and cousins. Leo was predeceased by his parents Sam and Faye Schicher, his infant brother Pesachia and the love of his life, Selma Shearer (Levin) to whom he had been married for 66 years before her passing October 24, 2018.
Leo was born in Mezhirech, Poland on December 12, 1928. His father Sam had to come to Winnipeg alone in 1929, to establish a better life for his infant son Leo and his wife Faye. It was not possible because of Canada’s immigration laws at the time, to bring them to Winnipeg. By the time he found a way to bring them here, Leo was already 6 years old. Growing up in the north end of the city, Leo was determined to make the most of the opportunities his father worked so hard to provide for him in Canada.
A brilliant and hard working student, Leo was one of 3 students at St. John’s Tech to have a grade A average all the way through high school. Although accepted to the prestigious MIT School of Engineering in Boston, he elected to stay in Winnipeg for University in order to help his family, when his father had his first heart attack. Leo graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree, where he excelled and was awarded the Eaton Scholarship. Those who witnessed it, described Leo as a mathematical and analytical genius, who could do extremely complex calculations in his head with speed and precision.
After graduation, Leo continued to work with his father at his grain mill, Economy Grain & Feed on McPhillips & Pacific. Although he was accepted to Harvard Business School for post graduate studies, tragedy struck the family. Just as Leo and Selma were expecting their first child, his father had a fatal heart attack at the age of 54. Once again Leo took charge and took care of his family. Eleven years later in 1967, Leo’s world was again changed dramatically by a terrible fire that burned down the Grain Mill. With a wife and three young daughters at home, Leo took this misfortune as an opportunity to redefine himself.
Applying his boundless energy, drive and outstanding business acumen, particularly in the area of finance and real estate development, Leo established his own Mortgage and Development companies. He built numerous projects including nursing homes, apartment complexes and hotels across North America. He was very proud to have been the first to obtain zoning to construct an apartment building on Grant avenue in Winnipeg, called the Americana. Leo alongside his partners, were also ahead of their time when developing the Nursing home called Oakview Place on Ness in St. James, which introduced innovative amenities and features not seen before in senior living facilities.
Time with Leo was memorable for his family and friends. With a terrific sense of humour, Leo truly enjoyed life. A passionate bridge player, he took it seriously achieving Gold Life Master status. He loved golf for many years and long walks outside, as keeping fit was very important him. He travelled around the world with his wife Selma and their many friends. They also loved dancing together, whenever they had the chance. Leo took advantage of the time he had with all of his grandchildren and children, genuinely listening and giving his best guidance and advice. He was there for hockey games, dance recitals and in any other way he could, as he truly loved and felt grateful for the time he had. His father’s untimely death made a huge impact on him. Leo presumed he would die young like his father.
Surviving both prostate cancer and open heart surgery, his strong will, love of life and family was unwavering. Everything he did was to ensure that his family would never have to struggle and worry as he did. His generosity and support was life changing for family members, as he believed in helping whenever he could. After he had surgery for prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins and more recently open heart surgery at St. Boniface Hospital, Leo showed his gratitude with sizeable donations.
Leo’s incredibly sharp mind, fastidious attention to detail and big heart served him well until the end. Diagnosed with vascular dementia in his later years, it became evident that he had a remarkable ability to compensate with his strengths, for a long time as the disease progressed. Through it all, he would say “it’s good to be alive!”. That optimistic bright disposition and perseverance helped him. His physical and mental strength defined him, as he fought and never gave up, when faced with challenges from the beginning of his life until the end.
Leo always made us feel loved and supported. We will miss him greatly and love him forever.
A special thank you to Doris Boutillier his executive assistant for over 20 years, Anastasia, Jessica, Folarian and all of the caring staff at Comforts of Home Care and the Simkin Centre. The love and support from friends and family has been greatly appreciated.
Funeral services will be held on Tuesday November 5 at 12:30 pm, at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. Thank you to Rabbi Matthew Leibl and the staff at the Synagogue.
For those who wish to remember Leo, donations can be made to: The Selma and Leo Shearer G.R.O.W. Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, 204-477-7520. www.jewishfoundation.org