February 8, 2020

Bill Eisen remembered in February edition

Bill Eisen working at his father’s store in Toronto before signing up to serve in the military and eventually moving to North Bay in 1953.

The February edition of A Bit of the Bay Magazine, to be mailed to subscribers Feb. 10, includes a beautiful tribute to the late Bill Eisen written by his neice Colleen Parker. The first page of the two-page story is below. There's also a tribute to the late Roy Summers written by Jeff Fournier at the beginning of the magazine along with an eight-page section on past winter carnivals in North Bay. In addition, there are several stories on the Nipissing Serenity Hospice opening, Dave Dale's column on the controversy of medical asssistance in dying (MAiD), NFL Super Bowl champ Ryan Hunter, the variety of fish caught on Lake Nipissing this winter and much more.

Below is the eulogy for Bill Eisen by Colin Vezina, his friend and comrade with the North Bay Legion Br. 23.

Sometimes in a life time, if you are particularly fortunate, you find a friend, an all-weather friend who stands by you in good times and bad.

Bill Eisen was that type of friend. And I’m talking 40 plus years.

I found over the years that Bill would reach out to anyone who needed a friendly hand, a bit of advice, a couple of bucks to get a meal, because that was his nature. It’s how he believed, what he believed, what his Jewish Faith taught him and what his own difficult time as a young man living near the Danforth in Toronto. Bill came up during the Great Depression and he knew what it was to be hungry, hence his efforts to assist someone, anyone, in need.

In all the years that I was on parade with him or training with him or part of the color party, no matter how frustrated he could get as Parade Commander, as the Sergeant Major, he would roar and roar loudly at some errant soul who wasn’t picking up his boots properly or not staying in step, but Bill avoid profanity. He was above using profanity.

He did call the odd guy a Schmuck and finally, I asked what was a Schmuck?

“You don’t know what’s a Schmuck? He’d say. All you Officers are the same it seems. You sometimes don’t know much.”

Then he told me a Schmuck was in my terms a Jerk while the guy should have been a Mensch. So I said what’s a Mensch. Bill said it’s the opposite of a Schmuck. You aren’t a Schmuck and I felt so much better.

Then he’d come up with that big smile and everything was good.

Over the years, Bill and I would discuss our roles as human beings and our attitudes toward others. His response was , and I quote:”Just try to do what the Big Guy tells us to do. It isn’t easy but we have to try.”

The Big Guy was Abraham from whom our teachings originate.

Bill was a man who loved people and his natural kindness and concern were so evident

When he was recreation director at the former psychiatric hospital, he laid on so many interesting and challenging programs for the mentally ill.

In the morning, so many of the patients would wait for him to show up shortly before 8  and they’d hug him because they were so happy to see him. And why? Because he loved them in his own way and making life simpler and more pleasant and more joyous for his patients, his gang, as he called them, that made his day. And he took them everywhere in the city and area in a panel truck from the hospital.

Everything Bill Eisen did was very proper and very exacting and in accordance with the rule book whether it was the hospital or refereeing a League hockey game, Legion work, anything. Nothing substituted correctness for Bill. Correctness was paramount.

As our Legion color party Commander along with rifles and the pipes and drums, he trained us so well, so hard, rain or shine, that Branch 23 was invited to lead the parade in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of Warriors Day at the Canadian National Exhibition. That’s how good we were under Eisen. Nothing but perfection –his idea of perfection.

We all have many memories of Bill and his life partner of 50 years, Dear Madeleine, who was his best friend and spouse.

Bill lived his life to his fullest helping people, sharing what he had and he bought a lot of meals for a lot of destitute Veterans, he helped so many Cadets when he was involved in the cadet movement, his community activities were profound and always with the big smile, with the positive attitude.

Indeed, Bill Eisen followed the teachings of Abraham and Abraham’s successors through his Jewish Faith and love of human kind.

I shall miss my good friend but I have so many fond memories of that lovable rascal.


(To purchase your copy of the magazine and support local journalism, drop by one of our retail outlets: Pinehill Coffee Shop, North Bay Museum, Allison the Bookman, North Bay hospital tuck shop. You can also email [email protected] for a mailing service.)

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