In Memory of Ben Sperer (1921-2021) by Rachel Phillipson-Levy
Sadly, Ben Sperer left us on the 26th of April 2021, before he had time to give his wonderful Spy Stories presentation at McGill University in Montreal which had been scheduled during the winter and was fully booked, as were all his lectures.
Ben was born exactly 100 ago and grew up in Istanbul. He spoke several languages fluently and during World War II, worked in the British Foreign Office as a translator. Following a military coup in Turkey, he and his wife Daisy emigrated to Montreal in 1960, where Ben worked for Pfizer for 20 years. He then established a medical journal publishing company called Pharmalibri, which he ran for 25 years.
On retirement, he started to attend a writer’s circle, leading to a large collection of short stories which were eventually published in book form, as well as a memoir of his youth entitled Under Turkish Skies.
Ben was blessed with an amazing memory, and he developed a love for lecturing on historical and world events. Being a wonderful raconteur, his presentations always took on a conversational tone. He never used notes, instead pointing to his head when asked where he kept his notes. He could talk on and on about the subject of the day, be it the Russian Revolution, events leading up to World War I and II, La Belle Epoque, Spy Stories and many other themes. He answered questions with his usual good grace and often stayed behind after the end of a lecture to continue the discussion.
Always elegant, charming and unassuming, Ben was a true gentleman. He will be deeply missed and will leave a deep hole in the lives of his family and numerous friends. Adieu Ben, you enriched our lives and for this we are very grateful.
July 22, 2021