Arnis MIERINS Obituary (1938 – 2020) – Toronto, ON
ARNIS MIERINS It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Arnis Mierins, who died on May 29, 2020 at the age of 83 in the Manotick Place Retirement Community with his loved ones by his side. Beloved husband of 60 years Colleen (nee Ramsay). Loving father of Arnie (Victoria) and Lisa. Much honored grandfather of Philippe, Patrick, Michael, David and Carolyn. Arnis, who died of his parents, Janis Alfreds Mierins and Hilda Melita Erglis, is very much missed by his brothers Janis (Renata) and Egils (Katheryn) as well as his many nieces, nephews and their families. As a father, he was an inspiring mentor who led by example, instilling a strong work ethic and sense of integrity in both his children and grandchildren. Arnis was born on May 17, 1938 in Riga, Latvia. His father owned a motorcycle and car repair shop in Riga and grew up with his wife Hilda on the family farm just outside the city in the village of Tukums. In October 1944, the Mierins family had to flee their native Latvia and seek refuge in Jönköping, Sweden. In June 1948 the family left Sweden with the aim of immigrating to Canada with 32 other displaced persons in order to find a better life. Due to mechanical problems with the Volo, a 50-ton fishing vessel bought for the transatlantic crossing, and delays in obtaining documents and visas to enter Canada, the seven families only made it to Dublin, Ireland. Finally, in early August 1949, they were able to arrange the RMS Aquitania’s last voyage with arrival at Pier 21, Halifax, NS, on August 9th. Together with other refugees from post-war Europe, Arnis and his family were housed in the Displaced Persons (DP) camp in Ajax, Ontario. Janis Alfreds traveled to Ottawa at the direction of the labor office manager of the camp and took a job as a mechanic with the Eastview Bus Service, which worked for Hyman Bessin and his brother-in-law Morty Friedman. When the Ottawa Transportation Commission bought the Eastview Bus Service in December 1950, the family was back on the road and found a job with The Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) in Hamilton, Ontario. Life in Hamilton was good for Arnis and his family. There was a large Latvian community and Arnis and his brothers enjoyed the stability of living in their own place. He attended a public school, joined the Boy Scouts, and helped with family expenses by taking a paper route with his younger brother Egils. After several years in Hamilton, Janis Alfreds was contacted by Morty Friedman, his former employer in Ottawa, to give him an opportunity to become a partner in his Volkswagen dealership. After returning to Ottawa, Arnis and his brother Janis worked at the dealership with their father. In 1953 they moved to 274 Rideau Street, where they opened the Midtown Garage and sold cars for Volkswagen Canada Ltd. distribution. During this time, Arnis attended Ottawa Technical High School and worked with his brother Janis at the dealership after school and on weekends. After graduating with honors, Arnis obtained his mechanic’s license and started his automotive career full-time. It was a humble start for someone to pursue a 65-year career in the automotive industry. In 1956 a Volkswagen dealer was founded at 845 Carling Avenue (Carling Motors Co. Limited). In 1957, Janis Alfreds acquired the rights to sell Mercedes-Benz vehicles and, together with Arnis and Janis Silver Star Motors Limited, founded a Mercedes-Benz dealer based at 65 Holland Avenue in Ottawa. In 1958 Volvo, Peugeot and Renault were added to Carling Motors Co. Limited. In the years that followed, they sold many makes of automobiles, including Alfa Romeo, Fiat, and Toyota. In 1972 the portfolio was expanded again to include Honda cars. With the help of his father and brother Janis, Arnis went freelance in 1972 to explore new opportunities as manufacturers began opening new locations in Ottawa and across Ontario. Over the next few decades, the portfolio of dealers and brands grew by: Ogilvie Motors Limited (Volvo, Triumph, Austin, Mini, MG, Jaguar, Subaru, Mercedes-Benz), Mendes Toyota & Collision Center, Civic Motors Ltd (Honda), Camco Acura & Collision Center, Mini Ottawa, Elite BMW, Orleans Honda, Kingston Toyota, Lexus of Kingston and Brockville Honda. As a young man, Arnis was very ambitious, future-oriented and had an infinite amount of energy. He had a very loyal and dedicated leadership group that was an important part of the daily operations and success of the dealerships. He loved the automotive business and the resulting relationships he has built with customers over the years. In 2018, around 650 employees worked for the Mierins dealer group and he was very proud of the large number of long-term employees who have been with him for 15 years or more. It goes without saying that he would like us to recognize the dedication and loyalty of colleagues who have become lifelong friends such as Jose Mendes, John Kennedy, Mike Neville, Bill Lockyer, Joan Duguid, Peter Wedekamm, Evelyn Jessome, Khalil Dagher and Mariane Darrouz. These are just a few of the shining stars that made him happy to go to work every day. Outside of the auto business, Arnis loved all sports, especially the Canadian Football League and the Ottawa Rough Riders. He took great pride in the fact that when the team was in financial difficulties, he was part of a group of local businesspeople who kept the team going for several years until a suitable buyer was found. He had great respect for the players, coaches, coaches and administrative staff, many of whom had side jobs year-round to make ends meet. Arnis was equally passionate about nature, fishing and cooking. He was proud of his vegetable garden and loved surprising us with wonderful meals in the cottage all summer. He loved his plants and flowers and made the best Latvian piragis every Christmas! He was an avid fisherman and was enjoying every opportunity he could find for the next big fishing adventure! He took great pride in teaching his grandchildren Philippe and Patrick how to fish. While fishing, he really relaxed, allowed himself to be in the moment, and appreciated the calm it brought him. It was a time when he could leave his worries and stress behind. He loved planning and packing his gear for fishing trips and spent hours checking his flies, bait, reels, lines, and rods. In the end, he probably didn’t care whether he caught a fish or not; it was all about the journey and the company he spent that time with. The family would like to especially thank Dr. Gianfranco Pietrobon, the management, the nurses, the personal carers and the administrative staff of the Manotic Place Retirement Community. The friendliness and patience shown to Arnis exceeded the family’s expectations. And finally, I would like to thank the very special supervisors from Qualicare Ottawa who looked after Arnis during his stay in the retirement home: Elenita Orog, Beth Patricio, Betty Aquino and Pacita Tomalon. You are truly outstanding people who show incredible compassion and kindness. Knowing that our Father was always treated with such dignity and respect gave us great comfort. We would also like to thank the doctors and nurses at Ottawa hospitals for their dedication, support, and excellent care. We would like to recognize the guidance and leadership of the Ottawa Hospital Foundation in its efforts to make all patients and families comfortable during these troubled times. If conditions permit, a celebration of life is planned. Instead of flowers, the family is soliciting donations in memory of Arnis Mierins to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation at 613-696-7030 or online at [email protected] Expressions of condolences can be forwarded to the family at www.beechwoodottawa.ca.
Published in The Globe and Mail from June 13th to June 17th, 2020.