Genuine, humble and selfless are all words the Collingwood community have used to describe a local volunteer who died yesterday.
Harold Zukerman, a long-time community champion and active volunteer, died on Sept. 19 of heart failure. He was 96.
John McCaffrey, Zukerman’s stepson, says he spent more time with his stepfather over the past six months as his health deteriorated.
“He’s a man we definitely could all emulate,” said McCaffery. “Harold’s behaviour says it all. He made the world a better place for a lot of people.”
McCaffrey said he enjoyed having weekly Wednesday dinners with Zukerman where he says they would sometimes argue, mostly about their differing political views.
“Eventually, I just avoided talking politics,” he said, with a laugh. “We had some pretty good times.”
Zukerman was born in Saskatchewan and spent most of his childhood in Winnipeg. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces and worked for the federal government throughout his career.
He moved from Rob Roy to Collingwood in the early 1980s with his wife Joyce. Joyce died in 2014.
The long-time volunteer started at the Collingwood YMCA in 1986, and most recently spent time there reading to children and teaching senior fitness classes. For the last 10 years, he also volunteered his time at the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital doing exercises with patients, helping with meals and offering spiritual care. He was a member of the patient-family advisory committee.
He continued volunteering at Collingwood long-term care homes when he was allowed due to ever-changing government mandates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jamie and Steve Berman were long-time friends of Zukerman.
“Collingwood has lost an incredible man,” said Jamie, who knew Zukerman through her work at the Collingwood YMCA.
“Harold Zukerman was a kind, gracious soul and a true community builder. He embodied the spirit of volunteerism and never missed an opportunity to do whatever he could to make a positive impact on those around him,” she said. “He gave his time selflessly. He cared deeply about others.”
“Harold leaves behind an incredible legacy. One of kindness and compassion, and an unwavering reminder for all of us, that small acts, done consistently, amount to huge impact,” said Jamie.
In 2013, Zukerman was given the Order of Collingwood for his contributions to the town. In 2019, he received the Companion to the Order for his ongoing volunteerism.
Steve said he had bonded with Zukerman over the years through their shared Jewish ancestry.
“One of my early (memories)... he collected reproductions of ancient maps. He showed up at our house with a framed map of ancient Judea. It’s been hanging in our living room ever since,” said Steve.
When Steve, a sitting Collingwood councillor, first ran for council in 2014 he says he had spoken with Zukerman to ask for advice regarding issues affecting seniors and volunteers.
“He was a really special guy. He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, but thank you for giving him the opportunity to give it to you,” said Steve. “It was genuine. He was always so real and so humble.”
In 2018, CollingwoodToday.ca interviewed Zukerman for the People of Collingwood series. During that interview, Zukerman explained his life philosophy.
“I have a DVD on happiness,” said Zukerman at that time. “An interviewer talked to a person who worked with Mother Teresa. He gave up a good job at a bank to volunteer with Mother Teresa.”
“The reason he said he was doing it is, he considered his life a loan from God, and now he was repaying that loan with a little bit of interest by helping people," said Zukerman.
“That’s the way to look at it.”
Funeral arrangements for Zukerman have not yet been made public.