Husband, father, role model, lawyer. Born April 14, 1943, in Renfrew, Ont., died Jan 25, 2013, in Toronto of complications from acute monoblastic leukemia, aged 69.
Born in Renfrew, Ont., as there was no hospital at Arnprior Ont.,, where his family lived, Bob was the middle child of Max and Pearl Smolkin. Even from a young age, his kind nature and wry sense of humour were recalled by his friends and camp mates from B’nai Brith.
Bob moved to Toronto in 1961 to attend the University of Toronto, where he earned a BA and later a law degree. On a blind date in Toronto, he met Sheila, who would eventually become his wife. Together they had three children, Joel, Steven and Ilana.
Bob enjoyed a career as a very successful lawyer with Fasken Campbell Godfrey, but it was always clear that his devotion was to his family. This didn’t apply solely to his wife and children, but to the large extended family on both his side and his wife’s. No cousin’s relation was too distant to make a home in Bob’s house for a week, a month or a year. He helped care for his parents in their old age, aiding them to remain independent until his father passed away three years ago at the age of 102.
Bob is not a world-renowned philanthropist, but spent countless hours donating his time to others. He was a faithful volunteer at Holy Blossom Temple’s Out of the Cold program, which he chaired from 1997 to 1999, and tirelessly devoted himself to providing dignity and shelter for homeless people.
He also took it upon himself to visit the elderly and sick on a regular basis, to provide them with a meal, a conversation or perhaps just company when there was little to be had. Everyone who met him comments on his generous spirit.
When asked why he did the things he did, he would simply answer “because.” When asked how he could go on visiting the sick and dying, he would answer “I just do.”
Bob’s lifelong love of learning is evident from a tour of the family home. Bookcases are lined with volumes from classical Proust to the newest fiction. The books are organized into genres containing literature on Judaism, baseball, historical and a large section dedicated to the playing of bridge. Bridge became a serious study and pastime after Bob’s retirement, and his determination to get better at the game kept him busy in play and in research.
He even took the time to learn Spanish after two of his children married spouses from Mexico and he delivered a speech with perfect syntax, from the heart, for his daughter’s wedding.
Bob’s illness came on very suddenly. He was still going on his three-hour adventure walks until three weeks before his passing. Friends, family members and acquaintances will all remember his subtle, crooked smile, his quiet sense of humour and his offerings of sage advice and comfort for anyone in need.
Ilana Santiago-Smolkin is Bob’s daughter.