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Greg with his grandson


Greg and Sylvia on their wedding day.


Greg with his son Daniel Brodsky when Daniel is graduating from University


Greg, Shep Shell and Fred Shane (who is the writer's father).

 
In Memory of Greg Brodsky, The Lion

by Myles Shane, posted here Nov 1, 2022

 

Greg Brodsky's funeral in Winnipeg  took place on Feb 13, 2022,  on Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest day in American pro sports.

 

That morning snow whipped back and forth across  the Shaarey Zedek cemetery as a crowd of mourners gathered all decked out in winter parkas and medical masks. Friends, colleagues and family were gathered to say their last good-bye’s to one of Canada’s great legal minds, Greg Brodsky. Rabbi Anibal Mass spoke eloquently about Greg's journey as a lawyer, a father and a devoted husband.  While the snow continued falling from the overcast skies, Greg's son Daniel took the mike.  He sported a fur coat, his dad’s Blue Bomber toque, and a voice that sounded identical to his father’s.  He read from his notes as the surging winter wind tried to blow away his last words to his dad. Danny’s voice was solemn as he tried to hold back his tears and spoke in a somber tone, ”December 29, 1957, Greg was 17 and still in high school when I was born. We really grew up together. He also happened to be one of my best friends throughout my entire life." 

 

 

 

THE LAWYER

There have been many great Canadian lawyers throughout history but there’s no doubt Greg was one of the best. Not only was he vital in changing the laws of insanity across Canada, he also represented his clients with a never say die attitude.  Greg always reminded me of a combination between Han Solo from Star-Wars and Indiana Jones from Raiders of The Lost Ark.  There’s a scene in The Empire Strikes Back which epitomizes Greg’s personality. After narrowly escaping the Imperial attack on the Rebel base on Hoth, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO find themselves fleeing TIE fighters through an asteroid field, during which the droid claims that the odds against successfully navigating through it are 3720 to 1. Han’s response is classic, “Never tell me the odds”. It’s this memorable silver screen scene and line of dialogue which truly is an anthem for Greg’s life.  Whatever the odds were, however small the window was to succeed, Greg didn’t want to know. He didn’t know how to quit. He didn’t know how to stop fighting for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. He demonstrated how one person fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds to right the wrongs done to his clients could change the way other people are treated in our justice system.

 

 

THE BLUE BOMBER TOQUE

Danny's notes continued to flicker in -25 frozen tundra like conditions.  You could see his breath freezing in the air. For a moment Danny was overwhelmed by his emotions but managed to to carry on. "Greg loved football and was a diehard Winnipeg Blue Bombers fan. His first pair of season tickets were in the end-zone. Every season he moved up until he was on the 55 yard line. My dad never missed a game unless he happened to be waiting for a jury verdict." Adjusting his dad’s Bombers toque his eyes looked towards the Heavens searching for answers. Danny continued, "My dad taught me how to play ball.  We played countless hours throwing and catching the football.  So it was only natural for him to become a coach of the Manitoba Minor Football League in River Heights.  I'm not sure if he understood why I took a position with a different team after the first season. You see, his devotion to quality and fair play meant no one was going to be warming the bench.  It meant everyone on his pee-wee team would have the opportunity to play the position he or she wanted. It was less critical for his team to make the playoffs then it was for them to be an example of equality, diversity and inclusiveness. Eventually playing ball with dad gave way to doing homicide cases together. I was lucky enough to play with my dad and work with him.”

 

EUOPE, KOREA & HONG KONG

As a kid I remember our families vacationing together. (The Shane’s and Brodsky’s)  When I was 11 we travelled to Europe. Memories of that trip will stay with me forever- Greg driving a mini-van through the French Alps while Sylvia was screaming, “Slow down Ger.” and my mom was ready to pass out from dizziness. My dad (Fred Shane) the psychiatrist was of course attempting to keep everyone calm from the reality that at any second the van might drive off the mountain as crazy French drivers whizzed passed us. I can still taste the gourmet food we devoured at 5 star Micheline restaurants in quaint little French towns on the way to Monte Carlo.

 

THE SOUL BROTHERS

As rays of sunlight seeped through the dark clouds the snow stopped falling for a moment, Shep Shell, Greg’s blind friend, Winnipeg's great Para-Olympic athlete took the mike from Danny.  He paused, took a deep breath, then said his final goodbyes to his best friend in the world, "I've known Greg for 50 years. Over the years he became my big brother and best friend.  He was instrumental in my qualifying for the 1988 Para-olympic games in Seoul, Korea.  I was running in Manitoba as a qualifying marathon and at mile 19 my friend Fred said to Greg, "I think he's going to die.  He's not going to make it." Next thing I knew a full wet sponge was thrown into my face which really ticked me off, but I got my strength back and finished the race.  Fred, Greg and I went on to the Olympics.  We called ourselves the SOUL BROTHERS. With Greg and Fred's guidance I ran a 5K and the marathon. I set my personal best times because of those guys." Another deep breath and barely able to say the words filled with sadness, "Greg, Fred and I will always be together.”  

 

 

THE RUNNING GANG

One of my fondest memories of Greg was in the early 1990's. At the time I was living in New York working as an intern at ABC NEWS, living in a cockroach infested room on the upper west side across from Central Park. My dad, Danny, Shep Shell, Ada Letinsky (a competitive marathoner) and their friend Eddie Winters had all flown to NY from Winnipeg for one reason, to complete the NY marathon. Their Sunday morning Kildonan Park running group were all there.

 

We all stayed at the St. Mortiz hotel on the glitzy Upper East Side.  Greg was there with his wife Sylvia. The first night the hotel was robbed at 4AM by criminals armed with machine guns. Welcome to New York, the city that never sleeps. (now i know why).

 

What I'll never forget is Greg had been recovering from a knee operation and the night before the race he was literally hobbling around on one leg. That evening my dad, Greg and Danny taxied to several hospitals in NY asking various doctors to inject Greg's knee with cortisone. They all said, “no” for various reasons until they arrived at a hospital in Brooklyn where Greg provided a compelling argument, accompanied by my fathers medical savvy insisting that it was imperative Greg receive a cortisone shot in his knee because the pain was overwhelming and he’d been training for six months to run the grand daddy of all marathons- New York. Danny vividly remembers the next morning, “I started the race with Greg and Fred, but since I thought they were faster than me I let them go ahead. Later I was feeling good so I tried to catch up, but I didnt notice that I had passed them. I wasnt trying to pass them, I just wanted to finish with them. I found Greg near the end and then finished the race with him too.” At mile 20 the pain in Greg’s knee re-emerged worse than ever.  I was watching the race from the sidewalk amongst thousands of cheering fans and my dad signalled me to run onto the course to provide ongoing emotional support for Greg.  With adrenaline pounding music pumping onto the streets,  Greg hobbled the last six miles with his son and friends by his side. It was a triumphant effort for him which was symbolic of the way he lived his life.

 

 

A SONG OF ANGRY MEN

The next person to speak at the funeral was another one of Greg's running buddies and fellow lawyer Rob McClennan .  He shared a story about how in 1995 neither of them had anyone to run with on Sunday mornings.  During their first jog Greg asked Rob what he did Friday night and Rob responded he and his wife Joanne went to see Les Miserables. With excitement Greg quickly retorted he'd seen the play with Sylvia in London twice.  After a few strides, Greg suddenly burst into song/shouting the lyrics from the musical at the top of his lungs. For the next mile, like a couple frat boys. they continued their escapades as they jogged down Wellington Crescent. 

 

A few years later the duo would run their first race together, a thirteen miler.  Near the end Greg told Rob, "I have to tie my shoe.  I'll see you at the end."  

 

 

GUR ARYEH

Gregs mother, Edith Gitterman, immigrated to Canada from Tuchin, Poland, in 1921, and his father, Joe Brodsky, arrived from Kishinev, Bessarabia, seven years later. Joe and Edith were living in Melville, Saskatchewan, on April 15, 1940, when Greg was born. Gregs Hebrew name was Gur Aryeh which means young lion. Thats significant because in ancient Israel the lion signified courage, might, and justice. Greg patently grew up to become a lion at the bar.

 

The family, including his brother Ivan, relocated to Winnipeg when Greg was five years old. After arriving in their new city Joe and Edith opened J. B. Grocery and Meats. They ran the shop together until Joe passed away in 1978. The couple were also fervently involved in civic and Jewish causes. One family value they  instilled in the children was the importance of community involvement and Tikkun Olam. For those unfamiliar with that phrase, it includes any activity that improves the world moving forward. Thus, its no surprise that Greg became the President of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue or a founding director of Skills Unlimited.

 

TYING UP LOOSE ENDS  

The snow kept falling and it was even colder which is almost impossible to believe. For a second our scene froze in time as Rob revealed his last memory of his dear friend, "Fast forward to Wednesday night of this past week.  We're both at the synagogue in the Simpkin Centre.  It's nine at night and we're waiting for the funeral home attendants to arrive.  They eventually show up and I say to Greg, "I have to tie my shoe. I'll see you at the end."

 

 

THE SHIVA

 

The night of the funeral the family was sitting shiva. In Judaism this is the traditional mourning practice.  If a loved one has passed on the family is supposed to stay home for a week and mourn the person’s soul.  During this time they can’t change clothes, all mirrors must be covered, and absolutely no watching any devices.  Nevertheless, today was Super Bowl Sunday and Greg and Danny had been watching together ever since he was a kid. Danny explains, “I excused myself from the meal of condolence to watch the last quarter of the Super Bowl because no matter where we were, from as far back as I can remember, my dad and I watched the game. When we werent in the same city, we would watch the game separately, but have the telephone on speaker. Greg always bet a nickel on the underdog.”

 

 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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