Skip to main content

Concordia mourns loss of Norman D. Hébert, Sr.

Quebec auto industry leader supported business and engineering students through scholarships
March 17, 2015

Norman D. Hébert, Sr., LLD 05, passed away peacefully at his home in Montreal on March 16, 2015, at the age of 89. He lived a full life as an outstanding businessman, a faithful friend, a devoted father and a loving husband.

Norman D. Hébert, Sr. Norman D. Hébert, Sr., LLD 05

Beloved husband of 63 years to the late Johanne, dearest father to Louise (Jean-Claude), and Norman Jr. (Diane), devoted grandfather to Annie (Antoine), Kathleen (Brian), and Norman John (Jaclyn), and great-grandfather to Nicholas and Xavier. Survived by his sisters Suzanne (the late Ronald) and Françoise (Gilles). Predeceased by his sister Jeanette (Carmel) and his brother Rudy (Jeanne-d’Arc).

Born in Montreal on November 15, 1925, to Henri and Merilda Hébert, Norman was a true entrepreneur. He founded his first automotive parts distribution business in 1950 and built it into one of Quebec’s largest in the ensuing years. In 1959, he realized his dream of becoming an automobile retailer in purchasing Park Avenue Chevrolet in downtown Montreal. He led its transformation over the next decade into one of Canada’s leading General Motors dealerships, adding the Oldsmobile and Cadillac brands.

Norman was ever the business visionary: his dealership was one of the first to computerize its accounts and introduce leasing as an integral business unit. In 1969, as its founding chairman, Norman launched the first auto show in Canada, the Montreal International Auto Show.

In the 1980s, Norman took another innovative step, creating one of Canada’s first multi-franchise dealer groups and introducing Montreal’s first auto mall, a tightly clustered group of multi-brand dealerships, which quickly caught on with consumers looking for convenience and one-stop shopping. Today, Groupe Park Avenue is one of Canada’s leading automotive groups, with 20 dealerships.

In the mid-1990s, Norman handed the reins over to his son Norman, Jr. He believed that a well-executed succession plan was the key to long-term success of a family business and worked hard to realize that objective. The third generation is now at work at Groupe Park Avenue.

Over the years, Norman received many awards and honours. He was the first recipient of Time magazine’s “Dealer of the Year” award as well as the first automobile retailer to be recognized by Revue Commerce as one of its monthly outstanding business leaders. In 1992, he was awarded the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. In 2005, Concordia granted Norman an honorary doctorate for his contributions to the community and his industry.

Although business achievements were important to Norman, he possessed many outstanding qualities we can all aspire to. He was a devoted husband to Johanne. They were a team in all ways and built a great life together. They were best of friends and unwavering supporters of their family.

Those who had the opportunity to work with Norman came to know him as a passionate man, a man of values and impeccable integrity, instilling those values and his entrepreneurial spirit with his family. A communicator, leader and mentor, he had charisma and charm. Few of those who met him failed to comment on his natural ability to make them feel important and appreciated. Even his caregivers for the past few years quickly became fond of him. He was the kind of man you wanted to spend time with.

Norman loved to ski. He discovered his beloved Mont Tremblant as a racer in the 1940s. He also had a love of travelling and visiting new places. All those who came to visit him there were overwhelmed by his gardens, attention to detail and love of nature. It is here that his love for tennis grew and where he played well into his 80s. A lifelong member at Laval-sur-le Lac, he was an excellent golfer, who discovered the joys of playing in Scotland, Ireland and Florida later in life.

Norman’s success in business propelled his interest in philanthropy, and giving back became a priority for him over the years. He supported many causes, including Centraide and Portage, but it was Concordia that became a passion for him. His wife Johanne, as well as many members of his family, studied there. Today, scholarships in his name are awarded annually to Quebec’s best and brightest engineering and business students entering Concordia.

The Hébert family would like to thank the devoted team of health professionals who cared for him and ensured he could remain in his home until the end. Special thanks to Dr. Rubin Becker at Mount Sinai Hospital and Dr. Denis Roy at the Montreal Heart Institute for their care and compassion.

In lieu of flowers, donations will be gratefully received in Norman’s memory by the Rubin Becker Endowment Fund at Mount Sinai Hospital and the Montreal Heart Institute Foundation. A private family funeral will be held shortly and a memorial service will follow in Montreal on May 29. Details to be announced at a later date.

Back to top

© Concordia University