Before passing away, the late Ben Weider gifted his extensive collection of Napoleonic memorabilia to the Montreal Museum Of Fine Arts.
This priceless collection can now be forever enjoyed by the general public.
I had occasion to view some of these great artifacts in his home, many years ago when I called on him to solicit a charitable donation. His extensive collection included the famed tricorne that the emperor wore in the Russian campaign in the early 1800's.
His passion and enthusiasm for his Napoleon obsession was apparent and before sitting down to discuss his potential donation I was treated to a fascinating primer on Napoleon and his legacy.
Ben Weider was a fabulous Montrealer.
Born in the Laurentians to a poor Polish family, he rose to become a successful businessman who along with his brother Joe were the purveyors of the famous Weider brand of weightlifting equipment.
More than that, he was an author, philanthropist and historian.
His philanthropic endeavors were not limited to Jewish charities. Among other donations outside his community he built a gym for Palestinians in the West Bank and contributed to the re-construction of the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal.
A francophile of the first order, he was awarded France's highest honour, the Légion d’Honneur for his work relating to Napoleon. Ben had friends across all ethnic and linguistic lines and I remember listening to him often as he recounted his stories on the air to radio host Gilles Proulx, another longtime friend.
He was dynamic, energetic and he will be missed.
I don't know what the the criteria are for getting a street named after you, but if ever a Montrealer deserved the honour, it is Ben Weider.
What say you, Mr. Mayor?