Avrum (Avi) Morrow passed away on Saturday January 5. Born in 1923,Morrow attended Fairmont Elementary School and then Baron Byng High School. After studying engineering and physics at McGill University, Morrow co-founded Avmor in 1948 , a manufacturer of professional cleaning chemicals. Today, the company is an industry leader.
Morrow received awards from the City of Montreal in both 1996 and 2000 as well as the Dobson Fellowship from McGill University in 2005. His generosity and community work earned him the honour of being named to the Order of Canada in 2007 that came with the following notation: “Quietly generous, Avrum Morrow is a strong believer in giving back to the community. He is a successful businessman who is also an eclectic philanthropist and volunteer. An amateur artist, he has found creative ways of supporting new artists and charitable organizations. These include creating a private gallery that is open to community groups for fundraising and other events. True to his belief that every child deserves to experience joy, he also assists young people in need, creating opportunities for them to grow. As well, the Montreal Heart Institute and the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University, among many other organizations, have benefited from his generosity and his leadership.”
Morrow was also the “Mr. Bike Man” who for 34 years made annual anonymous donations to Sun Youth Organization of over 1700 bicycles and helmets to underprivileged youth in Montreal.
For a good number of years every spring I’ve looked forward to receiving a package from Morrow that contained a jar of chrain (horse radish). For the past 74 years Avi and his wife Dora have been preparing their special secret chrain recipe. “Avrum’s Homemade Chrain” is sent to friends worldwide, both to Jews and non-Jews, prior to the celebration of Passover. Morrow said, “It all started when I was 18 years old. I was courting my wife Dora when her mother Mrs. Mary Berkson asked me to grate some horseradish roots which she would then use to complete her recipe.”
Morrow has always had a love of people and learning. His passion for the arts, led him to transform Avmor’s original headquarters in the heart of Old Montreal into an art museum. Morrow commissioned over 400 paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings from artists young and old, famous and unknown to make a work of art using the Avmor building as the central theme. This collection began in 1965 when Morrow asked artist R.D. Wilson to sketch the building for the company Christmas card.
In 2007 Morrow composed and published a delightful little red book. “Things you can’t make a mistake doing” is dedicated to people who admit making mistakes. “Over the years,” Morrow revealed, “I have compiled a list of things I believe you can’t make a mistake doing. Some of these are very obvious and I do not claim, in any way, that they are original; some of them I must have heard or read somewhere or someone mentioned them to me.”
Whatever is human, interested Morrow. What follows are some excerpts from his 48-page book.
Things you can’t make a mistake doing:
Listening to a child.
Acknowledging a gift in writing.
Sending a note to someone who is ill.
Saying, “I don’t know” when you don’t know.
Never telling an off color or racist joke.
Learning from your mistakes
Being a mensch.
At the end of the book there are two blank pages on which you can make your own list. The first thing I added was: “You can’t make a mistake having Avi Morrow as your friend.”