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Born: May 24, 1933

Date of Passing: Jul 30, 2011

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RUTH MIRIAM (BABS) ASPER With great sadness, we announce the sudden and unexpected passing of our beloved Mother, Grandmother, Sister and Friend - Babs Asper - on Saturday, July 30, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba at 78 years of age. To the community, Babs was a generous philanthropist, an ardent supporter of the arts and education and a champion for human rights. To all of those who loved her, she was the heart and soul of the Asper family - a loving and doting wife and a wise and dedicated Mother who endlessly encouraged and inspired her children, grandchildren, extended family and wide circle of life-long friends. She was renowned for her warmth and her desire to always put the needs of others before her own. A private, modest person, her lasting legacy will be the untold projects she supported, and the lives she touched and helped shape through her never-ending sense of kindness. She was a rare light in the world and we were fortunate to have been able to bask in it. Babs was born on May 24, 1933 in the north end of Winnipeg to Maurice and Sara Bernstein. She is survived by her brother, Mark Bernstein, and her three children and eight grandchildren including: son David (Ruth), Daniel, Rebecca and Max; daughter Gail (Michael Paterson), Stephen and Jonathan; and son Leonard (Susan), Sarah, Olivia and Matthew. She was predeceased by her parents, her husband of 47 years, Dr. Israel ( Izzy ) Asper, O.C., O.M., LL.D, and her infant daughter, Leanne. Babs was raised in the south end of Winnipeg where she was an alumnus of Grosvenor, Robert H. Smith, and Kelvin High schools. From an early age, she engaged in a wide range of activities including as a member of the chiclets' youth group at the YMHA and in many other aspects of student life. She met Izzy, her future husband, while attending Kelvin. Together, they went on to study at the University of Manitoba where, some 57 years after she received her Bachelor of Arts degree, Babs is still considered one of the University's most outstanding and honoured graduates who used her gifts and talents to give back to her community. She was actively involved in University life and particularly enjoyed Drama Department and Varsity Varieties productions. Babs lived an extraordinary life and was a quiet force for good in her own right. In 1956, following University, she married Izzy, whom she supported by working at Phillips Paint Products while he attended Law School. Wholeheartedly, she committed herself to her growing family and her home - never failing to encourage each child to discover their own strengths and follow their own passions in life. It should come as no surprise that her happiest moments occurred during family gatherings where her wise counsel came second only to generations of family laughter. Life with Izzy was incredibly demanding and very few people could keep up with him for more than a few years. Babs was made of sterner stuff and was an invaluable partner, holding down the fort as Izzy developed his law practice, ventured into the world of provincial politics, and created Canwest Global Communications Corp. His remarkable success in life was due, in no small measure, to Babs' sense of duty, and her skillful management of the varied demands of a corporate and political wife, which she handled brilliantly. At the same time, she fulfilled, virtually single-handedly, the usual requirements of a loving mother of three. Babs' commitment to the community set in at an early age - inspired by her parents and grandparents who were strong Zionists, dating back to when her maternal grandmother worked with Golda Meir to raise funds in North America for the establishment of the State of Israel. The welfare of Jews and of Israel was always in the forefront of areas of concern in her family household. From the time she was a teenager, she was an active volunteer for many organizations including the Age and Opportunity Centre, Winnipeg Jewish Community Council and many others. Babs' desire to make a more powerful impact on the world around her continued to grow. As a Co-founder and Chair of The Asper Foundation, she shared Izzy's philanthropic nature, and vision for leading meaningful change in the areas of health, education, culture, human rights and community development in Canada and Israel. After Izzy's death, Babs ensured that the Foundation continued to spearhead the creation of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, now nearing completion in the heart of Winnipeg. Just days ago, she toured the construction site and was thrilled to see her family's dream rising up into the city skyline. In addition to providing the lead gift in support of the Museum, for the last several years, Babs worked tirelessly on the Board of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as well as on the capital campaign cabinet. She spent countless hours in meetings during many challenging years to ensure that the vision for the Museum would become a reality. Friends has raised significant private sector funds with Babs as one of the campaign's star fundraisers, for the past eight years. Her presence will be deeply missed on the Friends team. Babs also played a key role in supporting numerous other charitable organizations in Manitoba, Canada and Israel. She was active in promoting and awarding student scholarships for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; was a former member of the Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education; was chosen to receive the prestigious President's Award by the Winnipeg Press Club for her contribution to the community, and just a few weeks ago, became an Honorary Fellow of the Herziliya Interdisciplinary Centre - a private University in Israel. Her personal support of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and, the Manitoba Opera was pivotal to the creation of new major works of art by these organizations. For many years, she also served on the Board of the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre where, as fundraising Chair, she worked tirelessly to strengthen the organization. Along with Izzy, Babs and her family have been one of the foremost contributors to the University of Manitoba. In 2008, she created The Babs Asper Professorship in Jazz Performance in the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music, allowing the University of Manitoba to become one of the first in Canada to offer a Bachelor of Jazz Studies degree. She took great pleasure in seeing the program flourish and loved seeing the engagement of students and faculty. Babs loved live music and supported the Winnipeg Jazz Festival and the Asper Jazz series, often graciously hosting receptions for performers and sponsors in her home. When not listening to jazz, she could be found tuned into Saturday Afternoon at the Met , and faithfully attended live broadcasts from the Met. In her rare private time, Babs loved nothing more than being with family but also enjoyed golf, reading, theatre, ballet, bridge, travel and, of course, both jazz and opera music. Her other great love was spending time at the cottage at Falcon Lake where the family spent its summers for over 40 years. Just days ago, she was marvelling at the beauty of the calmness of the lake and resented every summer day that she was not on her deck with a good book and a cup of coffee. Babs was a remarkable woman who made her mark in the world in her own quiet, dignified way. She will be sorely missed by many - some who will never know how her generosity and commitment to community bettered their lives. As a family, we are forever grateful and extend our heartfelt thanks to the staff in the Emergency Room and Cardiac Care Unit at the St. Boniface Hospital for their valiant efforts on our Mother's behalf. We also want to acknowledge the wonderful care provided to Babs by Gloria Magpali whose companionship, over the past many years, was greatly appreciated by the entire family. The funeral service will be held today, Tuesday, August 2 at 12:00 noon in the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue at 561 Wellington Crescent. Pallbearers are David Asper, Gail Asper, Leonard Asper, Ruth Asper, Daniel Asper, Stephen Paterson, Jonathan Paterson, and Max Asper. Honourary pallbearers are Michael Paterson, Susan Asper, Mark Bernstein, and Dr. Jack Rusen. In keeping with the spirit of Babs Asper, in lieu of flowers, a tribute gift in her memory will be gratefully accepted by the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (, one of her most important projects, or by a number of other charities and organizations close to her heart. We thank you, in advance, for considering honouring her in this way. Condolence messages may be posted at

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on Aug 02, 2011

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