A tribute to Mark Sapir by Stephen Ben-Oliel of Canadian Noble House Diamonds:
How do you say good-bye to a man about whom they talked in whispers, “When he laughs, the great silver bears of the north dance for him under the Northern Lights. When he dances, the angels sing from the heavens with joy”?
In every life well lived, there is someone who has mentored and guided the way. Of my personal journey, Mark Sapir is the man who took me off the streets of Toronto and showed me how a life well lived could be. Ours was a beginning that was the stuff of Dickens. My dream of entering Toronto’s diamond trade seemed thwarted by blood lines, lack of connections and inexperience. Mark was looking for ambition and hunger, and so it was. He fired me before he hired me. I brought nothing more to the table that first fateful day than the previously named ambitious hunger to learn everything of the diamond trade and I knew there would be no better teacher than Mark. In turn, and in anger, I declared that it would serve us both well if he at least gave me a three month free intern position in his company. He did. And so it began, my journey with Mark, the most brilliant years of education, travel, intrigue and adventure that a young and aspiring diamantaire could ever dream of.
We worked in compliment. Mark had the smarts born of a beginning in Tbilisi, Georgia which he used to enhance his skills in the international diamond market. He worked for one of the two founders of the diamond industry in Israel and successfully took the Silver Bears (Russian diamonds) to market internationally, eventually coming to Canada in the early 1970s. Mark was full of drive and ambition and so it is no surprise that he started his own international diamond wholesaling business based in Toronto, later also importing Italian gold. He became integral to the Canadian diamond business and known by all.
In his professional world, Mark was guided by Toronto’s elder gentlemen of the trade, men like Henry Dorsey, Ken Boddy, and Joe Zoski. These men are each a grand story in themselves, together they were legendary, now but memories. Each of these kind gentlemen reflected the best of our industry and tempered us with their wisdom. Mark’s legacy now rests with theirs.
The diamond business reflects, in a myriad of ways, the absolute best and worst in our humanity. He chose of course to surround himself with these kind gentlemen for the dark abyss of diamonds, like humanity knows no bottom. Mark chose to focus on love for that is all that really matters. So went our years together, million dollar days, black Monday, measuring profit and loss. Memories all fade. However, the force of Mark’s personality remains in my mind and heart today.
On the last day of my life, should I know the day, I will remember the way he would turn to me, smile, and say, “Stephen, this is the life”. Love was Mark’s guide in both life and business. There were no greater loves in his life than his beloved and devoted wife Julie, his son Danny, his daughter Leah, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As much as we loved the diamond business, Mark taught me that family was all that really matters, and he led the way by truly living his life accordingly to this principle.
So to you Mark Sapir, you will always live in the hearts of your loving family and in all those who had the honour to know you. You are one for the ages and you will be missed. The love that you left behind will last forever.
We will not see his like again. CJ
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