Birth: November 24, 1901 in Fort Qu’Appelle, (Regina),Saskatchewan
Death: January 26, 1993 (age 91) in Oak Bay, (Victoria). B.C.
Rabbi Victor Hillel Reinstein gave the following eulogy at his funeral:
Funeral: January 27, 1993
Yazreit: 4 Shevat
Avram was the name of Abraham, our father. It was the name of Abraham, the journeyer, the one who journeyed from place to place, across miles and years until he came to the place that would be home. It is the name of our Abraham, our Abe, Abe Libby who journeyed across miles and years, filling a long and good and rich life with meaning and love, and the admiration and respect of so many in all the places to which his journey brought him.
Abe Libby was truly a “type”, a rare type, strong, gentle, proud, compassionate, stubborn, honourable, kind, charitable, honest, respectful, respected … in short, “salt of the earth”, the kind that keeps the world going without even realizing it. He was and old-time type, very few of whom are left.
Abe’s family was the most important part of his life. Of his children, he said, “they were just below God.” Each of you, know of your dad’s love, Louise, Harvey, Marian, Connie. I think that you spoke for all, Louise, when you said, “I always knew that my Dad loved me, never a doubt in my life.” And so that love continued even to the third generation, with 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He loved his house as as a place where the family could gather. It was his ‘palace’. Even when he was living in the Oak Bay Lodge, if he knew his kids were coming, he would call someone to make sure there was food in the house for you. He saw his house as your house and even imagined all of you living together in it, a thought which makes you chuckle. Looking out with pride over his children, unto his children’s children’s children, for they were all his children, he still saw himself as the head of the family until a few days before he died. As the eldest child himself, he had a deep love and concern for his siblings and held them all close within his family embrace. There was no such thing for him as a distant relative.
Beyond his own relatives, Abe felt a bond with all people, especially if they were in need. Like Abraham in the Torah, the one who journeyed, our Abe also taught us the mitzvah of ‘hachnasat orchim‘, ‘the taking in of guests’. Abe was always bringing people home, providing food, taking a stranger to the doctor. Together, he and Ann acquired “hospitality” as a middle name. He didn’t care who people were, race or religion, rich or poor. He spoke of people each one, as a “fine human being”, whether they really were or weren’t. He accepted people for who they were.
Abe was born in Fort Quepelle which was then in the Northwest Territories in November, 1901 to Moshe and Rachel, homestead farmers from Romania. The family soon moved to Lipton and at the age of 14 Abe went to work for an uncle in Dysart, Saskatchewan. The journey of his life i amazing for the number of places he called home…Fort Quepelle, Lipton, Dysart, Chicago, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Scepter, Prelate, Reknown, Ogena, Moose Jaw, and finally, since 1957, Victoria.
Abe loved sports, and in the midst of all of his moves he even gained some fame. He and his brother Bill, whose yahrzeit is today, are said to be the first 2 athletes ever to be flown to a game. In the ’20’s they were both flown in separate open cockpit planes from Scepter or Prelate to Eston, landing on the frozen prairie, to play in a championship hockey game in the Prairire League. May their souls now soar together. Abe never really liked to fly after that, not even with you Harvey. Abe was a past president and life member of the Victoria Seniors’ Curling Club. Abe was also an ardent golfer, and at 89 years of age achieved a hole in one.
In addition to the social dimension of his athletic interests, Abe was quite civic-minded. He was a charter member and past president of the Oak Bay Lion’s Club and a life member of Lions International. He was a 65-year member of the Odd Fellows, as well as a Mason. Early on in the years after coming to Victoria, he was also president of this synagogue.
Abe’s life found its fullness in his relationship with Ann. Theirs was a beautiful and unique marriage of almost 66 years. As his children have said, “he died a little every day after Ann died”. At the time of Ann’s death about a year and a half ago, Abe expressed so beautifully the constant newness and depth of love when he said so humbly, “I realized and learned more in the last 2 years of how much she meant to me than ever before. To me she was an angel.” I would like to share a brief story. At Ann’s funeral Abe and I had intense eye contact during the eulogy. I spoke to him by name and talked about their life together. His eyes gazed at me so intently. I was moved and began to speak with greater feeling, going beyond the words of the text I had prepared. After the service I came down from the bimah and we put our arms around each other. Abe whispered into my ear with a loud hoarse whisper, “Rabbi, I have to tell you, I forgot both hearing aids and I couldn’t hear a word you said.” At first I felt sorry. Then I realized that in face we had communicated on a much deeper level. It made no difference that he hadn’t heard the words. He was reliving the experiences of which the words were only a distant description.
And now it is Abe who we remember, this upright, caring man, and we relive the experiences that joined our lives to his. He now begins another journey and yet his love remains to nurture and encourage and made you, his children, feel proud as you look upon your own children. Abe displayed a big old pocket watch in a bell jar on the mantelpiece. It was his father’s watch. Abe lovingly explained that his father lost the watch while plowing a field. The next year while plowing the same field his dad found the watch. He picked it up and wound it and it began to run. Abe came from stock that was like that watch. Time will now continue to be marked by his having been, as he guides the journey of those who loved him. To his dear friends, Wally and May Panter, you can hear his “thank you”. Your love was above and beyond friendship. As a blessing from Abe’s family, may your lives be enriched by your kindness. For you Abe’s siblings, may the close bond among you continue. May you still be guided by the words of your mother who said “keep together” – “tzuzamen“.
May you his children also keep together in a yet closer way as you begin a new stage in your lives. May your parents’ love continue to surround you and may the memory of both Ann and Abe be a blessing in your lives for all who knew them
Gravesite Details: Row G – Plot 11
LOVED BY ALL
Moshe “Morris” Berkovitch
Ann Karabis Libby (1910–1991)
H.W. (Bill) Libby
Louis Paritz Libby
Gertie Libby Conn
Esther Goldie Libby Marcoe