Ruth Goldbloom sculpture unveiled at Halifax’s Pier 21 Museum

Friends and family gathered at the unveiling of a sculpture of Ruth Goldbloom at Halifax's Pier 21 museum, Oct. 3, 2021 (Credit: Michael Creagen)

A sunny morning, perfectly depicting Ruth Goldbloom’s glow and bright attitude, greeted more than 100 family members and friends Oct. 3 at Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

They were gathered for the unveiling of a sculpture of Ruth, seated on a bench, surrounded by immigrants’ suitcases, with her beloved tap shoes sitting at her feet. The sculpture, created by Newfoundland artist Morgan MacDonald, will be permanently located near the entrance to the museum. Visitors will be invited to sit beside Ruth, whose legacy was that she talked to anyone and everyone who entered the museum that she created to honour the 1.5 million immigrants who entered Canada through the Port of Halifax’s Pier 21 from 1928 to 1971.

Ruth Goldbloom died in 2012, at the age of 88.

With Nova Scotia Lieutenant-Governor Arthur LeBlanc and Halifax Mayor Mike Savage among the guests, Ruth’s husband, Richard, her children, Alan, David and Barbara, and six of her seven grandchildren, helped unveil the sculpture and a descriptive plaque.

Alan, speaking on behalf of the family, praised MacDonald’s work.

“He never met our mother so we sent as many photographs as we could to help him. But photos can’t convey the energy, spunk, humour, determination, passion and the mischievousness that were the essence of her character. If he had tried to create this when she was alive, he would have faced the almost insurmountable challenge of getting her to sit still and pose long enough for him to do his work.”

Alan spoke of Ruth’s passion for Canada’s multicultural, multi-ethnic composition and about her mother, Rose Schwartz of New Waterford N.S., who emigrated to Canada at age 12 from Russia.

“As Ruth traversed the country raising money for the restoration of Pier 21, she was energized by stories similar to those of her mother, families who arrived with nothing but hope and determination, and for whom Pier 21 symbolized the beginning of a new life,” Alan said

In the 1990s, Ruth led the restoration of Pier 21 from an abandoned shed to the showcase museum it is today. She refused to take no for an answer when she sought money.

MacDonald said it was “an honour to hear about Ruth, even though I never met her. I hope visitors to Pier 21 will discover who she was. Now she’ll always be here in spirit to greet visitors.”

Karen and Howard Conter were, and are, the backbone of the sculpture project. They developed the idea, knocked on all the right doors to make it happen, did much of the fundraising with the cooperation and assistance of the Atlantic Jewish Council, and have seen it to fruition.

More funds were raised than necessary for the actual sculpture, and the additional money will go toward a bursary for students of immigration.

Marie Chapman, the CEO of Pier 21, spoke about how Ruth loved retail, and could sell anything to anyone.

“The key, she always told me, was to look them in the eye. When she looked at you, she made sure you were the only person in the room. And by doing that, she was able to draw stories from people, stories that have built this museum.

“To have her back here—it’s magic!”