He was jovial and kind, the type of person you’re drawn to. Ronald “Jimmy” Wisdom was a barber and musician but most importantly, he was a friend to all.
“In every community, there are giants and he’s one of them,” said Wisdom’s friend Valarie Steele.
Wisdom was a pillar in Toronto‘s Caribbean community, working for more than 50 years as a successful barber.
The 72-year-old had second and third generation customers in and out of his shop along the Eglinton West corridor.
“He’s one of the fathers of Toronto, he really is,” explains Toronto city councillor Mike Colle.
“(He) represents a whole wave of people who immigrated here and Jimmy helped them get through this transition … The barbershop is like little city hall. You go there and people talk about their problems, their issues, their celebrations — it’s a community hub.”
Wisdom racked up a list of accolades during his fruitful life, performing with Fats Domino and singing for the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
“Jimmy was a people person,” said Nadine Spencer, president of the Black Business and Professional Association.
“He wasn’t for himself. He really was about giving back to the community.”
Wisdom passed away at Sunnybrook Hospital with his family by his side on Nov. 28.
A documentary produced for the 2015 Pan Am Games featured Wisdom as he shared his story about immigrating to Canada.
“I try to live a life of gratitude and giving whenever the opportunity presents itself,” Wisdom said in the first-person documentary.
“I try and make myself a productive individual in this land, in this country, this province, this city and I’m going to be here for a long time.”
Wisdom was known for offering up some words of “wisdom” during a hot shave and cut.
Even in his death, he continues to influence and encourage others.
The 72-year-old leaves behind his wife of 39 years, Merva, as well as sons, daughters, his brother Clifford, nine grandchildren and one great grandson.