Bob White (1935-2016): A Montreal Icon

Bob White (1935-2016): A Montreal Icon

Born in Montreal in 1935, Bob White spent his formative years in a household that provided refuge to those in need and for newcomers to the city.

Early in life he understood the unevenness of society and the responsibility that was heaped on the shoulders of those who had the capacity to help, so service to those around him and to his community .

Driven by that sense of responsibility, Bob used the extensive network he built in the political, social and business arenas over seven decades in Montreal and the United States, to improve the lives of individuals and families regardless of color or creed.

When Bob White established West End Association in 1974, serving youth and families in and around Little Burgundy, the neighborhood was mired in poverty and desperation with a juvenile delinquency ratio that was the highest in Montreal. Statistics Canada showed an annual per capita income in the area of around $5000

Bob used West End as a vehicle to assist dozens of student-athletes secure scholarships in universities and colleges across North America and in many instances helping to subsidize books and additional living expenses.

Bob also used his reach to touch the lives of families during their moments of highest vulnerability by sending many inner-city children to day camps and even using his resources to pay for funerals when called upon.

However, one of his most significant achievements was his role in getting the City of Montreal to build an out-door basketball court adjacent to the Negro Community Centre, which became a gathering ground for the many talented young men and women in the neighborhood.

Bob knew the benefit of sports as a way of self-improvement.

As a highly skilled swimmer he was a member of the YMCA’s swim and water polo teams at a time when few Blacks had that privilege. His capacity as a swimmer also earned him a position as Aquatic Director of the Harlem YMCA in New York City.

For much of his life, service was paramount to Bob, and he remained committed to the end: working on a long-standing project to persuade the various levels of government to erect a memorial in remembrance of 12 children in the community who drowned in a boating accident in July, 1959 and a memorial for Oscar Peterson, the iconic Jazz pianist who was born in Little Burgundy and went on to become one of Canada’s best known cultural ambassadors.

Bob leaves to mourn his wife, Linda and son Shawn.

Bob and soon-to-be prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a few days before the 2015 elections

Bob and soon-to-be prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a few days before the 2015 elections