Niznicks recall their childhood home

It was more than just a ceremony to thank a generous benefactor; it was a reunion of old friends.
Doctor Gerald Niznick, his wife Reesa, brother Joel, and sister Sharon Niznick-Glass were all on hand Friday for the unveiling of a plaque dedicating a new department at La Verendrye Hospital to their parents, Ed and Sadie Niznick.
The ceremony was planned to thank Dr. Niznick for his donation of $100,000 to the “Care Close to Home” campaign to help pay for Phase IV renovations at the hospital here.
“We’d like to recognize Dr. Niznick’s generosity to the betterment of health care in the Rainy River District,” said Larry Cousineau, chair of the Riverside Foundation for Health Care.
“It’s not just the people who live here today who remember the district with fondness,” added Claire Brunetta, founding chair of the Riverside Foundation.
About 70 people came out to the ceremony which was held in the new dialysis unit of the new wing of the hospital. The wing is expected to open next month.
Many of the people who attended were old friends of the Niznick family, who lived here from 1947-77.
Among the guests was Dorothy Coran, who worked in the Niznick’s store on Scott Street for about 30 years, and who purchased the store and ran it as Dorothy’s when the couple retired.
“Ed and Sadie Niznick were prominent members of the Fort Frances business community. They made life-long friends here,” Brunetta said. “Without doubt, their most significant achievement was to raise a remarkable family.”
After graduating from the University of Manitoba Dental School in 1966, Dr. Niznick made a name for himself in the field of dentistry after inventing a new type of dental implant. He founded his own company in 1982 to sell his implants, and in 2001 sold his company $100 million U.S.
He is generally recognized as the father of American implant dentistry, and has been recognized with Honourary Doctorates from the University of Manitoba and Tel Aviv University.
Eldest sister Sharon is a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network and resides in both California and Winnipeg.
Dr. Joel is a cardiologist in Ottawa, while his twin sister Judi Niznick-Donoff works as an interior designer in Florida. She was not able to attend the ceremony.
Brunetta noted his wife Bev grew up next door to the family, and that it was her idea to contact Dr. Gerald for a donation when the “Care Close to Home” campaign began.
While he was nervous about contacting a man he had never met for a donation, Brunetta said his worry was for naught.
“His response was more enthusiastic and more generous than we could ever have hoped for,” he said. “Dr. Niznick is as well known for his philanthropy as he is for his accomplishments in the field of dental implants.”
Sharon was the first of the family to take the microphone, recounting the history of her parents and how they came to Fort Frances.
Both born in what is now the Ukraine, Ed and Sadie actually met in Winnipeg where their families had emigrated.
The couple married and moved to rural Saskatchewan, where Sharon and Gerald were born. There, father Ed was a founding member of one of the first farmers’ credit unions in Canada.
When the couple learned about a store for sale in Fort Frances, they decided to move when their two children were six and four years old. Twins Joel and Judi were born at La Verendrye Hospital here.
“I grew up here and have wonderful memories from that time,” Niznick-Glass said, recalling her days at Robert Moore School and tobogganing with her father in the winter.
“My mother was a member of the Hospital Auxiliary and my father was a member of Kiwanis,” she noted.
Neither of the Niznick parents were able to pursue a higher education, largely because of the Great Depression. Because of that, they always encouraged their children to go to university.
“It’s really nice to be here with all of you, with friends who we consider to be family,” she concluded.
“It’s a great opportunity to be home, and I always consider Fort Frances my home,” Dr. Joel said. “I’m proud of my brother’s accomplishments and his donation.”
When Dr. Gerald took the podium, he first thanked Brunetta for contacting him and congratulated him for his fundraising efforts.
“The community should be very proud of what you’ve done,” he said.
Having arrived on Thursday, he and his wife spent part of the day touring Fort Frances along with Cousineau and others.
They determined that optometrist Dr. Lorelei Locker’s office is in the location where Niznick’s store used to be. The couple also took a photo in front of the house Ed Niznick built at 822 Second St., where the family lived.
Dr. Niznick said he was impressed with the way the town has developed since he’s been away.
“You have a great infrastructure for a community of this size. This is a great community to raise children in,” he noted.
“My business and educational experience has taken me around the world several times, but I always consider Fort Frances my home,” he said. “It’s my pleasure and privilege to be back here.”
Following the speeches, the members of the Niznick family as well as representatives from the Riverside Foundation unveiled the plaque dedicating the hospital’s new diagnostic imaging department to Ed and Sadie Niznick.
“I can’t think of a better way for someone to honour their parents,” Brunetta said.
Following the ceremony, the three Niznicks could be seen making the rounds in the crowd, talking to as many old friends and well-wishers as time would allow.
The hospital also offered tours of the new wing, including the diagnostic imaging department which will bear the plaque with the names of Ed and Sadie Niznick.