What a Cruel World

What a Cruel World …
“that takes away one who has made such a significant contribution to the welfare of others” . . .

by Gehan Sabry

I spoke with Sobhy el Ganzoury several times over the phone in the past three years, but only met him on November 19,1991;  he received me with all the courtesy and hospitality of a true Egyptian, and I immediately sensed a very ‘human’ and sincere person.  Within five minutes we were talking as though we had been good friends for years.  His pride and joy in life was his 10 year old daughter Andrea (Mona), and he was very fond of his elder brother Kamal, on whom he kept an album of photographs and newspaper clippings.

I wanted to write about the man who arrived in Kitchener in 1969 as an architectural engineering student and steadily worked his way from part time jobs at the Walper Terrace to actually owning the hotel.  He modestly and quietly pointed out that he usually does not seek publicity, but that we could meet upon his return from Florida where he was joining his wife and daughter for a short vacation … so you can imagine my shock when I learnt that he was killed in a car crash just two weeks later … and it became increasingly painful as I discovered more about that exceptional person from his friends, employees (who were his extended family), and business acquaintances

as a tribute to his memory I shall attempt to share what those teary eyed people told me about him

Everyone agreed he had many rare and wonderful qualities, and some had incidents to tell; he was extremely generous and benevolent, kind, warm, caring, friendly, compassionate, soft hearted, courteous, reliable, forgiving, . . . HUMAN.

“In his youth, back in Egypt he had been the local Volleyball champion, he was quite a personality, very popular . . . we went to the same high school, then attended the same university.  His family are all extremely kind and decent people.  He accommodated my wife and I for one and a half months in his home, when we first arrived here, and his wife is a sweet lady.  If ever we had a special Egyptian meal he would come over and spend the day with us, my kids loved him.  He was such a likeable person.  I still don’t believe he’s gone !”

“He was a very successful business man, and had many friends all over Canada and the U.S.A., always willing to share his time to help others, we lost a good friend.  He was very honest and straightforward, his word was as good as, if not better than, a signed document.  There’s a saying that the good ones go first”.  Another person described him as a flower that shares its beauty and scent, yet dies quickly.

“He was very reliable, you just knew you can call him up and count on his support”.

“He was a symbol of faithful friendship, very gallant and noble, and he was simplicity itself”.

“Once we dined at his hotel in Fort Erie, at the end he called the chef and very generously tipped him, I said: you’re treating him as though you’re a client, he explained: it’s not his fault we don’t get to pay the bill, that man did a good job, and he deserves appreciation!” “He never spoke to anyone about anyone else, or boasted about his good deeds.  Once I introduced a person who needed a job to him . . . Sobhy made a mental note of it, and never mentioned him again.  I only found out when that person came to thank me!”

“You just need to see the people who work with him, how long they’ve been with him, their loyalty; he cherished and knew most of them since his part time job days. He never treated them as a boss, and never allowed his increasing wealth to get to his head”.

“He always treated us as if we were a part of his family, and felt responsible for every one of us”.

“He would go out of his way to assist anyone who needed him, was very caring and good to his employees, and much respected by them, he never upset anyone. He will be missed very much at the hotel”.

“He had a unique way of resolving internal arguments, he would gather everyone in a family circle and discuss the situation until all were happy again”.

“He was the kind of person who not only planned, but he talked and shared his plans and participated in what he thought could lead to the betterment of the community. He has offered something human to the hospitality industry. We will all miss him”.

“People of all kinds benefited from him financially, large amounts of money – in excess of $5,000 – were given to people he knew and people he didn’t know. He provided jobs for them, he helped them out and made necessary contacts to assist them … as recently as the day before he left to go to Florida, he donated all his apartment furniture to a family that didn’t have anything, and when offered money, he would only take a token gesture. Few people were like him”.

“It is ironical that he was in the process of reducing his work responsibilities so he could spend more time with his daughter and wife !”

“He was very benevolent, and it didn’t matter if you were Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, he helped you”.

“I am extremely honoured to have been able to call him friend. There are very few people who can cross the cultural barriers, who can comfortably associate with people of all nationalities, religious affiliations and financial positions, Sobhy Mohamed el Ganzoury was able to do that with ease and sincerity”.