TORONTO — Family and friends of Barry and Honey Sherman, one of Canada’s richest couples and outsized philanthropists who were found dead in their Toronto mansion on Friday, are expecting such support the funeral service is being held at a large convention centre.
“It’s because of the size of the crowd,” said Marc Benjamin, one of the family owners of Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel. “We can accommodate up to 1,100 at our chapel, but they are expecting many thousands.”
The funeral on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the International Centre near Pearson airport, is open to the public while the burial following the service will be private.
The bodies had not yet been released to the family Monday afternoon as the police and coroner’s office investigation continues.
Sherman, 75, was the founder of pharmaceutical giant Apotex. Canadian Business magazine recently assessed his fortune at $4.77 billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country. A large contingent of employees of Apotex are expected to be at the funeral.
Honey Sherman, 70, was born in a displaced persons camp to two Holocaust victims and was on number of community boards and, together, the couple gave millions of dollars away to charities and to support community services.
Homicide investigators are now taking the lead on the case, police announced Sunday, although that does not mean the deaths are considered a homicide, police spokesman Mark Pugash said Monday. Homicide detectives were moved onto the case because “they’re the best people in the organization to investigate,” Pugash said. “By far, they have the ideal qualifications and experience.”
Post-mortem examinations on the couple revealed they both died of “ligature neck compression,” signalling a type of strangulation.
The couple’s real estate agent found their bodies dangling side-by-side on low railings around their indoor pool, sources told Postmedia Friday. Police said there were no signs of forced entry and no suspects at large the public should be concerned about. Sources said the initial hypothesis was suicide or murder-suicide, a contention friends and family of the Shermans say is impossible.
Clusters of floral bouquets were dropped off outside the Shermans’ house on Old Colony Road by mourners on Monday as police continued their probe, featuring Forensic Identification Services officers outfitted head-to-foot in white coveralls to protect the scene.
Barry Sherman’s business made him enemies as well as profits.
“Barry was involved in big pharmacy on a worldwide basis. His lawsuits pertained to billions of dollars, back and forth. When you are dealing with the size of that industry and the amounts we are talking about, you make enemies,” Fred Waks, a real estate developer and close friend of the Shermans, told The New York Times.
He added, “And you make enemies on a global basis.”
“He was the bane of the existence of the branded drug companies in Canada. He was not their favourite person, but he was respected,” Paul Grootendorst, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, told the CBC.
The billionaire held a fundraiser for Justin Trudeau in August 2015, shortly before the Liberals won the election, an event that was later reportedly investigated by the country’s lobbying watchdog. The Shermans’ 12,440-square-foot home had recently been placed on the market for almost $7 million.
Though fabulously wealthy, the couple did not live like billionaires. They flew economy. Barry Sherman drove a beat-up old car. And although they owned a grand house with a tennis court and two pools, it was modest compared with many even on their tree-lined, country-style street in the city’s north end.
They had booked a long vacation north of Miami Beach, Fla., where they owned a condominium and visited regularly. Honey Sherman, who was set to leave Monday, sent out emails to friends last Monday asking for dates to golf and have dinner with the couple while they were there.
It was signed: “Looking forward to hearing back asap. xoxo Honey.”
With files from wire services