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ED SONSHINE

GERMANY

Photography by Hudson Taylor

Ed was born in 1947 in Germany in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, which became a Displaced Person (DP) Camp after World War II. The British ran it for three years as a DP camp, and eventually, it became a naval base. During the war, his father hid in the forests. His mother was in four different camps, ending up in Auschwitz, and was also part of the death marches. Ed’s parents met at Bergen Belsen after the war. There were 10,000 Jews there, and 2,000 babies were born in the camp.

Ed’s father had many war injuries and was not healthy enough to get into the United States but was accepted by Canada. Initially, they moved in with a cousin in London, Ontario, but the family moved to Toronto shortly thereafter for employment opportunities. Ed’s father had saved some money from working after the war and was able to purchase a house on Markham Street. Because he had arrived with few skills, he started doing manual labour. He first became a house painter for several years, and then a house builder, building two or three houses a year. He thought Canada was the “best country in the world.” His aim was to pay for his two sons’ education. He believed that “they can take everything from you but they can’t take what is in your head.” After two or three years, his father bought a laundromat on Dovercourt with his brother-in-law.

Ed went to Palmerston Public School. After school, he would go to Cheder (Hebrew school) at the Dovercourt Shul and then meet his father at the laundromat to help deliver dry cleaning on their way home. After the laundromat was sold, his father went back into house building.

Ed became a lawyer and practiced for 15 years at Fogler, Rubinoff. He left law to go into real estate and attributes his success to hard work and luck. Rio Can was started in 1993, and is now worth $15 billion. He can’t believe it himself. He just did it “one deal at a time.”

His biggest regret is that his father couldn’t live to see him succeed, particularly with respect to his role on the Board of Directors of Royal Bank of Canada. This was the bank his father went to each year, hat in hand, to get financing for the next year, in order to be able to build a couple of houses.

Ed feels very lucky to live in Toronto, where success is possible, especially in real estate. Ed married his wife, Fran, at age 21, and they have been married for 51 years. They have three children: Jodi, who became a doctor; Daniel, who completed a combined law and MBA degree; and Jonathan, who works at Rio Can. Each of his children has three children, and he and Fran have five granddaughters and four grandsons.