June 29, 2016
Alex Raab was an innovator and inventor
|The late Alex Raab is known in the horticulture industry as an innovator, inventor and founder of White Rose Nurseries, which grew to become one of the largest retail garden centre chains in Canada.
Raab opened his first White Rose in 1957 on Hwy. 7 in Unionville. From there, he saw his dream grow into one of the most advanced horticultural growing operations in the world with facilities in Canada, the U.S. and Israel. At its peak the business had 42 stores.
Over that time, Raab had established a blueprint that many independent garden centres continue to follow. Along with plant material, he incorporated gift material
He sold White Rose Nurseries in 1991, dedicating his retirement to various philanthropic and horticultural research projects in Canada and Israel.
By 2005, White Rose ceased operations.
Before Raab came to Canada, his life was like something out of a movie. He fought with the Partisans against the Nazis, often speaking of his experiences during the war and the lessons learned, which he applied to all aspects of his life.
Ariel University in Israel remembered Alexandre Raab following his death on September 16, 2015. In a tribute to him, the university wrote, “Over the years, many stories emerged through family and friends of his courage, creativity and effectiveness as a Partisan fighter. One such story was shared with Raab’s family by an individual who experienced Alex’s extraordinary abilities first hand. He told how Alex, alone and at great personal risk, had rescued him from a Nazi prison. Alex and his fellow Partisans had become aware that the Germans had captured their friend. They knew it was only a matter of time until this man would be transferred from prison to a concentration camp. Knowing the fate that would no doubt await his friend in the camps, Alex was determined to rescue him. Although the group had decided the rescue mission would be too risky, this did not deter Alex. He obtained a German uniform and forged an official letter demanding the release of the prisoner to his custody. Impersonating a German officer Alex entered the jail where his friend was being held captive and demanded his release. When the jailers refused, Alex began to shout and waved the official letter in his hand, threatening action by superior officers if they did not comply and demanding the prisoner’s release. The Nazi guards eventually surrendered their prisoner to Alex. Upon his release his friend was overcome with joy and emotion at seeing that Alex had come to rescue him, almost giving them both away. Alex maintained the charade, and so as not to arouse any suspicion, dealt his bewildered friend a hard blow before dragging him off. Within minutes they were beyond the prison gates and on their way to reunite with their Partisan comrades.”
Both of Raab’s parents, his grandparents and two of his six siblings perished in Auschwitz and other death camps, as did most of their extended families.
Following the war, Raab completed his education in France. Acting as the Dean of an agricultural college set up by a Jewish agency, he trained young Jewish refugees in the skills they would need as they made their way to Israel. While there, he met and married Jeannine. In 1954 Raab, Jeannine and their young son, Simon, immigrated to Canada where the family grew with the birth of three more children, Andre, Serena and David.
Raab was born on August 9, 1924 in Czechoslovakia. He died on September 16, 2015 at home surrounded by his family. He was survived by Jeannine, his wife of 64 years, his children Simon (Diana), Andre (Nancy), Serena (Frank) and David (Kim); his 10 grandchildren great-granddaughter and many nieces and nephews. A memorial service was held on October 9 at the Vaughan Estate at the Estates of Sunnybrook in Toronto.
On October 13, Ariel University paid tribute to his memory during the university’s annual staff awards ceremony. Gathered in the auditorium of the Raab Building, dedicated in the memory of Raab’s father, Simon, university leaders shared stories of Alex Raab’s life and paid tribute to his generous support of Ariel University and the Raab family’s love for the State of Israel.
In the dedication, it was written, “Alex was a private man who never forgot the terrible experiences of his past but who nevertheless lived a life full of love and kindness. He felt that his greatest revenge for the overwhelming losses he and his people suffered in his early life could not be achieved through hatred or violence but through the creation of a loving, generous family, committed to doing good in the world. He saw his wealth in his wife, children and grandchildren. He was a man who wanted very little for himself but who always wanted the best for his family, friends and his community.”