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Donor Profile: Strong educational legacy lives on in honour of Edgar and Renate Marten

Update #90

Edgar and Renate Marten

For the Sehr and Marten families of Toronto, continuing the educational legacy of Edgar and Renate Marten is a natural progression in their unwavering commitment to Estonians’ future.

The family has made a Viru Vanemad donation in their memory as part of the International Estonian Centre’s (IEC) Capital Campaign.

They want to help ensure that the IEC will be ready to continue to serve the next generation of young people such that education, through the Estonian supplementary school remains a strong focal point at the IEC.

The donation is being made by Edgar and Renate’s children and grandchildren, and their respective families. This includes daughter Reet, son Juhan and grandchildren Paul, Eric, Andres, Katrina and Alexia.

“Our grandfather was a big supporter of the new centre,” said grandson Paul. “He was always asking about it, wanting to know when it would open and what it will look like. He would have loved seeing it built.”

Edgar, known affectionately to many in the Toronto Estonian community as “koolipapa” (school father), was the principal of the Toronto Estonian School for a remarkable 43 years. An influential community leader, he also served on many boards including an Estonian church and the Estonian Central Council in Canada. He passed away in October 2020, having lived to 100 years of age.

Born in the fishing community of Neeme, Estonia, Edgar studied to become a teacher at Tallinn’s Õpetajate Seminar. His first teaching assignment after graduation was in his own home town, but he was able to teach there only one term before his life’s path changed abruptly due to World War II.

Renate Marten was born in Nurste, Hiiumaa, Estonia and attended business school in Tallinn. She went on to work for the Estonian government. The couple met and worked in Norrköping, Sweden where they married and started an active social life, including frequent leading roles with the local theatre company. Renate passed away in 2002.

After Edgar and Renate immigrated to Canada, he immersed himself in building the educational legacy that thrives to this day. Although his daily work in Toronto was in other fields, Edgar remained a teacher for the rest of his life. The Toronto Estonian Supplementary Schools were his passion, and he was enormously proud of his students. He spent his 90’s writing a sweeping history of the Estonian supplementary schools from their inception, often spending up to eight hours a day at his computer.

“He always remained young at heart,” Reet said. “My father had a deep influence on many people’s lives, in particular with raising generations of Estonian-Canadians through the Toronto Estonian Supplementary Schools. He was instrumental in making sure Estonian culture and language lived on in Canada.”

Edgar and Renate’s influence on their family has been profound.

“Estonian culture was so influential and important as we grew up,” Paul explained. “Both Eric and I have children who are now going to the Estonian school here in Toronto. Andres’ children attend the Stockholm Estonian School. We are all really excited to see the new centre being built for the next generation.”

Eric serves on the board of the Estonian House and also on the Estonian Arts Centre board. They plan on making very good use of the IEC.

“We will be at the new centre all the time,” says Paul. “We’ll be there with our kids, we’ll go there to do our banking, and it will be a central gathering place for all the Estonian activities that take place in Toronto.”

“And the downtown location is fantastic,” he adds. “We can walk there.”

The international aspect of the IEC’s mandate is also a huge plus, says Reet, who is Vice-President of the Estonian Central Council in Canada (EKN).

“There are approximately 200,000 Estonians outside of Estonia,” she said. “Any connections we can make with each other – whether that is locally or globally – will bring tremendous value to our community as a whole. Over the past 3 years, the Estonian government has worked with EKN and other global Estonian organizations to develop an exciting new program to support the Estonian diaspora. The IEC can act as a hub for these efforts, here in Toronto and beyond.”

The life journey for so many Estonians of Edgar and Renate’s generation spans almost unimaginable hurdles and milestones. It is thanks to lives like the one that began in a fishing village in northern Estonia over 100 years ago that a striking new institution that will envelop and enrich our community into the next century can become a reality.

Get involved and help support our future

Are you interested in helping build this spectacular new home for the global Estonian community? Please join our growing list of capital campaign donors! The International Estonian Centre’s donor categories are Kalevipoja Laud for gifts over $100,000 (including naming rights for specific areas), Viru Vanemad for gifts over $10,000, and Kungla Rahvas for gifts up to $10,000. Stay tuned for the launch of the Kungla Rahvas campaign in 2021.

To make a donation, please contact Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All Canadian and U.S. donations will be issued a tax receipt.

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