As we mourn the passing of Harold Greenspon, who served as a Côte Saint-Luc city councillor and my District 2 predecessor for 26 years, many memories of this extraordinary man come back to me.
In the summer of 2004 I got a telephone call from Harold. This was during the period when the forced municipal mergers were in place and Côte Saint-Luc, grouped with Hampstead and Montreal West, a borough of Montreal.
Harold (left) is shown here at the first Sports Breakfast with hockey players Mike Ribeiro and James Desmarais.
Harold had served as city councillor from 1975 to 2001. I had gotten to know him very well during that time, initially as a young kid integrally involved with community activities and then as a reporter for the local papers covering City Hall.
The purpose of Harold`s call was to ask if I would help him create a Sports Celebrity Breakfast under the auspices of the Cummings Centre for Jewish Seniors, of which he had become vice-president. Côte Saint-Lucers had voted to demerge by this time and an election to reconstitute the city was set for November 2005. I told Harold that I wanted to run in the District 2 seat he had held for 26 years, but would not do so if he intended to seek office again
“I will make you a deal,” Harold said. “You help me get this Breakfast off the ground and I will endorse you as my successor.”
In 2005 Harold shook my hand and endorsed me to run as his successor on city council.
It was an offer I could not refuse. The Breakfast, initially meant to just break even, recently celebrated its 13th anniversary and has raised over $2 million for seniors in crisis. As for my election, well Harold provided guidance and even knocked on a few doors with me for my first campaign and I defeated my opponent with 92 percent of the vote.
Harold and his wife Malvina had moved to a condo on Marc Chagall Avenue, so they were now constituents of mine. Like the late Mayor Bernard Lang, Harold would call me from time to time to share his thoughts on certain issues.
I always used to call Harold Côte Saint-Luc’s “Minister of Finance.” As a distinguished chartered accountant, he played a critical role in every financial decision the city made. While council had no formal portfolios back then as we do now, Mayor Lang entrusted Greenspon every step of the way to work on complicated budget matters.
In recent years Harold suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time. Early in the disease, the most obvious are shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking.
I remember Harold chairing our Maison Fleuries ceremony for the first few years after our reconstituted council came into office. He’d come to the microphone and shake quite a bit, repeatedly apologizing to the audience. Soon we’d see him walking with the help of a cane and then he needed a wheelchair and round the clock help at his home from caregivers. His wife Malvina and his children Neil and Donna were by his side every step of the way. Sadly, he had to the last 11 months of his life as a permanent patient at Maimonides Hospital.
Neil Greenspon gave an eloquent eulogy at the funeral. Paperman and Son was filled to capacity,a fitting tribute to Harold. Neil told us how his dad was born in 1937 in Ottawa. The family moved to Montreal when he was two. When he was 12, his dad passed away unexpectedly. Older brother Mort, 16, quit school to run the family business. Harold would eventually get a part-time job at Steinberg`s Grocery Store to contribute. He eventually ended up at McGill University, getting a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in 1958 and becoming a Chartered Accountant two years later with the second highest mark in all of Quebec. Soon after he accepted an opportunity to lecture at McGill, a relationship that would last for 45 years.
“Just two years ago my wife and I were on an elevator in Tel Aviv,” Neil explained. “A gentleman from Texas came on. He asked where I was from and what my name was. He told me that he went to McGill and asked if I happened to know Harold Greespon. He said ‘Your dad was the best teacher I ever had. He was so passionate about what he was doing.’”
The last year marked a roller coaster ride for Harold, going back and forth to emergency for a variety of problems, ranging from pneumonia to heart failure. He had to be placed on oxygen on occasion,
Harold Greenspon left quite a legacy in this city. In Côte Saint-Luc, our auditorium and a park are named after him. Of course, the Sports Celebrity Breakfast was his baby. Had he not taken the initiative, vulnerable seniors would have had one less helping hand.
Rest in Peace Harold!