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Theatre & Performance Anne Mirvish, widow of ‘Honest’ Ed Mirvish, dies at 94

Anne and Ed Mirvish are shown in a handout photo dated circa 1999.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Anne Lazare Mirvish, the widow of Toronto's colourful retailer "Honest" Ed Mirvish, and the mother of theatrical producer David Mirvish, died on Friday afternoon. She was 94 years old.

Born Anne Macklin in Hamilton, she was a singer, painter and sculptor who adopted her mother's maiden name, Lazare, when signing her artwork.

In a statement distributed by Mirvish Productions, the Mirvish family said: "She was beloved by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her."

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In late 1939, Anne met Edwin Mirvish, who was then working a number of jobs in Toronto, including as a retail buyer. According to her husband's 1993 memoir How to Build an Empire on an Orange Crate (Or 121 Lessons I Never Learned in School), their courtship initially unfolded largely over mail. The two married in 1941 and David, their only child, was born in 1944.

Though her husband was the public face of the family's retail empire, Anne was an integral part of its early success. Their first store was partly funded by an insurance policy of Anne's that the couple cashed in for $212. Opened in 1941 with a sign designed by Anne, Sport Bar, which sold women's sportswear, changed its named in 1944 to Anne & Eddie's. As it expanded, taking over the storefronts of adjacent businesses at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor streets, it became known in 1948 as Honest Ed's.

And it was Anne – who always had a passion for the arts – who prodded her husband in 1963 to take a chance with the store's profits and purchase the Royal Alex, then a fading jewel of King Street facing the wrecking ball, for $215,000. Her enthusiasm for the visual arts also opened the eyes of David to contemporary art. His David Mirvish Gallery was an important part of the city's art scene in the sixties and seventies. Later, he joined his father in the live theatre business.

Mirvish Productions is currently celebrating its 50th year in operation.

Ed Mirvish died in 2007, at age 92.

A funeral will be held for Anne Mirvish on Monday, Sept. 23, at Toronto's Holy Blossom Temple.

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