Activist, businessman Brunis Rubess dies at 83

Brunis Rubess, a Latvian-Canadian businessman and community activist who became an advisor to the Bank of Latvia, died Dec. 23 in Rīga. He was 83. 

Rubess was born Dec. 21, 1926, in Rīga, according to the online encyclopedia Latvijas ļaudis uz 21. gadsimta sliekšna. His parents were Nikolajs and Milda Rubess.

He attended elementary school (Rīgas pilsētas Kr. Barona 2. pamatskola) and high school (Rīgas pilsētas 1. ģimnāzija) before World War II broke out. While serving in the Januma Regiment of the Latvian Legion, Rubess was captured by the British and ended up in the prisoner-of-war camp in Zedelgheim, Belgium. In the camp Rubess was the editor of the newspaper Laika Griežos and the humor magazine Atskabarga. He completed his secondary education in Latvian high schools in German refugee camps in Oldenburg, Augustdorf and Muenster. From 1948-1953 Rubess was active in the refugee camp in Augustdorf, lending a hand with education, editorial work, in the scouting movement, and as a member of the Latvian National Council (Latviešu Nacionālā padome).

After immigrating to Canada in 1953, Rubess worked in the insurance industry before he started his business career at Mercedes-Benz of Canada. From 1962-1964, he worked at Volkswagen Canada in sales and marketing. Rubess then took a position with the Boston-based management consulting firm Harbridge House, which took him to the United States, Germany and back to Canada.

In 1972, Rubess returned to Volkswagen Canada as president. From 1988-1991, Rubess was senior director for Volkswagen in Munich, Germany.

After Latvia regained independence, Rubess from 1992-1998 served as a member of the Board of Governors for the Bank of Latvia, the country’s central bank. From 1999 on, he continued as a consultant to the bank.

Rubess married Biruta Broks in 1953 and the couple had three children, Baiba, Baņuta and Balvis. Biruta died in 2002. In recent years, Rubess’ partner has been Aija Ebdene.

Rubess was an active member of the Latvian community in Toronto. In 1959 he helped organize the first Youth Festival, followed by the 2×2 Latvian cultural immersion seminars, which were initiated by a group of active Toronto Latvians under Rubess’ leadership. Rubess also was involved with the Latvian Foundation and with the Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto.

Rubess’ autobiography, Brīnumainā kārtā…, co-authored with writer Nora Ikstena, was published in 1999.

Rubess was also a philanthropist. Through the Vitols Foundation, he has supported Latvian students with the Biruta Rubess scholarship.

Rubess received the Order of Three Stars (Triju zvaigžņu ordenis), Latvia’s highest civilian honor, in 1997.

The funeral is scheduled at noon Jan. 16 in Rīgas Meža kapi, Aizsaules ielā 2, Rīga. In place of flowers or wreaths, memorials may be directed to the “Brunis Rubess piemiņas stipendija” administered by the Vītols Fund in Latvia.

(Updated Jan. 2, 2010, with funeral and memorial information.)

Brīnumainā kārtā

Brunis Rubess’ autobiography Brīnumainā kārtā… was published in Latvia in 1999.

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

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