As a youth, Sol Kanee was told by his parents, “Whatever you take from the community, you must give back twice-fold.”
As it turned out, what Kanee give back to the community far exceeded the advice given by his parents.
The prominent lawyer, Second World War veteran, business executive, community leader, mentor, confidant to prime ministers and presidents and philanthropist is the 2009 inductee into the WinnipegREALTORS®-established Citizens Hall of Fame.
“Sol Kanee was a friend and outstanding citizen who deserves to be recognized as an outstanding citizen,” said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz during a special ceremony honouring the inductee at the Asper Campus.
Actually, Kanee was inducted into the hall of fame in the room named after his wife — the Florence Kanee Foyer.
It was a fitting location for the tribute, said hall of fame chair Rick Preston, as Kanee, who passed away in 2007, was a moving force in establishing the Asper Campus.
“The Citizens Hall of Fame committee decided it was appropriate to hold the ceremony in the site which best represented inductees’ achievements,” added Preston.
The 36th inductee into the hall of fame will now have a sculpture of likeness added to the other inductees now on display in the Formal Garden at Assiniboine Park.
“My father was steeped in the classics,” said Stephen Kanee, the son of the most recent inductee. “I remember him telling the story of Cicero (the Roman philosopher and statesman), who was asked why he didn’t have a bust in the Pantheon. Cicero’s reply was, ‘I’d rather they ask why my bust isn’t there than why it is.’
“Yet, I know my mother (who also passed away) is smiling down with pride and gratitude.”
“His greatest legacy,” said Sydney Halprin, one of a group of Winnipeggers who nominated Kanee for induction into the hall of fame, “ was that he actively cultivated, seeded, mentored and urged on a generation of young people to follow in his footsteps.”
“When he left Melville, Saskatchewan (where he was born),” said Kanee’s son, “he took his heart to Winnipeg.”
WinnipegREALTORS® president Deborah Goodfellow said the inductee instilled confidence in people and inspired others to be exemplary citizens.
“He was the beacon who lit the path for others to follow,” she added.
“Where do you begin and where do you end on describing an individual who lived nearly 98 years,” said Preston. “Kanee was nominated for his many achievements in so many fields of endeavour — arts, voluntary service, public affairs and others.
“Kanee is truly a remarkable citizen who touched so many organizations throughout his prolific life in ways that will endure for many years to come.”
Kanee helped in building the Royal Winnipeg Ballet into a world-class troupe, he was a co-founder of one of Winnipeg’s largest law firms — Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, he built the Kanee Grain Company and Soo Line Flour Mills into a technology innovator, he was a chairman of Transair Inc., served 60 years on the board of Sharon Home, was a chairman of the federal Business Development Bank of Canada, was a director of the Bank of Canada for 17 years, was president of the Canadian Jewish Council and an executive of the World Jewish Congress.
He was also instrumental in establishing the United Way in Winnipeg.
Among the many awards Kanee received was the Canadian Jewish Congress Samuel Bronfman Medal in 1978, the International B’Nai Brith Humanitarian Award in 1979, the Nahum Goldman Medal in 1995, the Order of Canada, Order of the Manitoba Buffalo Hunt, the Centennial of Canada Medal, and was conferred with an honourary degree from the University of Manitoba.
“Kanee showed us what can be accomplished by combining a keen intellect with a determination to succeed and make a difference above and beyond one’s own personal pursuits,” said Preston. “Winnipeg is a much better place as a result of Kanee’s legacy.”
“”He is a model for our community and showed what can be achieved when people dream the impossible dream and make it happen,” added Halprin.