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Florence Richler (1929-2020): ‘Mordecai worked hard to leave enduring work’

The university mourns a dedicated Concordian who donated her husband’s effects — including his desk and 6,000 books — to the next generation
January 14, 2020
By Howard Bokser

Mordecai and Florence Richler Montreal native Florence Richler’s career took her to London, where she met Mordecai Richler in the 1950s.

Florence Richler, a great supporter of Concordia, passed away on January 10, 2020, in Toronto. She was 90.

Richler was a member of the university’s Chancellor’s Builders Circle, which honours philanthropists who support the next generation of students, faculty and researchers through gifts of $100,000 and more. She was also the widow of the noteworthy Canadian writer and Concordia attendee Mordecai Richler, who passed away in 2001.

Mordecai Richler’s literary estate donated the author’s personal effects, including his desk, typewriter and collection of 6,000 books, to Concordia in 2013.

“We are extremely fortunate that Florence saw Concordia — where Mordecai spent significant time in the 1940s and 1960s — as the natural home for so many of his personal items, to help his memory live on,” says Graham Carr, Concordia’s president.

This gift inspired the creation of the Mordecai Richler Reading Room on the sixth floor of the J.W. McConnell Building (LB).

It also established the Mordecai Richler Writer in Residence program, whose participants were three award-winning Canadians — playwright, novelist and broadcaster Ann-Marie MacDonald; graphic artist, author and illustrator Matthew Forsythe; and novelist, screenwriter and short story writer Peter Behrens.

Florence Richler and Jacob Richler Florence Richler, pictured with her son Jacob at the opening of Concordia’s Mordecai Richler Reading Room in 2013.

Florence Richler was born on October 19, 1929, in Montreal. She was registered as Gwendolyn Crowe, then adopted by Albert and Ethel Wood.

She built a globetrotting modelling and acting career; it took her to Paris and London, where she met Mordecai in the mid-1950s. They married in 1960, and together had four children. Florence Richler had a son, Daniel, from a previous marriage.

“It was my wish that Concordia be custodian of my late husband’s writerly possessions,” Florence Richler said at the opening of the reading room in 2013.

“Mordecai worked incredibly hard to leave behind a body of work that would endure. That legacy will be immeasurably strengthened with the addition of the Mordecai Richler Reading Room at Concordia.”

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