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Donor Profile: David and John Kalm

Update #58

Supporting the new IEC is all about honouring their parents’ legacy

For brothers David and John Kalm of Toronto, supporting the new International Estonian Centre (IEC) represents honouring their parents’ legacy as well as paying it forward for the benefit of the next generation.

“This is not just any project,” says John, a corporate commercial lawyer. “It represents a legacy that began with our parents’ commitment and now we have the opportunity to define our community for the future. We have a limited window here, and we all have to get on board.”

David, who is project manager for the IEC, described their families’ motivation for stepping forward with a donation of $100,000.

“This is all about mom and dad. We owe everything to them. They were the most loving, supportive parents and always encouraged us to work hard. We are making this contribution in their memory,” he said.

David and wife Kristina have three boys: Oscar,19; Silver, 17 and Johannes 14.

John and wife Anette have three children as well: Christopher, 32; Gabriela, 30 and Liisbet, 22.

Leone and Toomas Kalm

John and David recount how their mother Leone, who was born in Canada into a family that settled here many generations ago, would participate in many Estonian activities with her children, such as folk dancing and the Ontario summer camps Seedrioru and Jõekääru.

“She was very much involved, and supported the community whole-heartedly,” John said.

Toomas and Leone Kalm met in Guelph, Ontario and spent their early married years in the small rural community of Glencoe where David, John and their sister Kerry Lee were born. Toomas graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, in 1959 and established a practice as a veterinarian in Glencoe.

“Our father was an inspiration to us. He came to Canada, learned English, and through hard work and determination was accepted into university and graduated as a veterinarian,” David said.

After he set up his practice, he quickly gained the respect and trust of the local residents. Many of them were farmers and Dr. Kalm, who had studied caring for large animals, treated their horses and cattle.

John and David remember well their childhood home where all manner of animals, often those that were abandoned at their father’s clinic or had no other place to go, ended up at the Kalm homestead.

“We had turtles, birds, dogs and cats,” laughs David. “And our family even took in some lambs once that we kept in the back garden. Our father joked he wouldn’t have to cut the grass as long as they were there.”

Many Torontonians will remember Dr. Kalm from the Blue Cross Animal Hospital on Danforth Avenue in Toronto’s east end, which he and Leone purchased in 1968. The Kalm family moved to Toronto and became very much involved in the Estonian community. The practice was sold in 1993 and still operates as an animal hospital in Toronto’s east end.

John and David are looking forward to the pivotal role the new IEC can play in the Estonian community.

“Locally here in Toronto the IEC will help rejuvenate the Estonian community and provide a modern and up-to-date cultural centre,“ John said. “More broadly, it will help foster connections between Estonia, Canada and the U.S. When Estonia got its independence back, the focus shifted to the future and what is possible.”

“This will be a place the community can be proud of, where people will want to celebrate the major events in their lives and where we can show the world what Estonians are capable of,” David added.

The brothers deeply admire their parents’ generation.

“There were so many devoted people in the community at the time the Estonian House was built,” John said. “The previous generation made a big commitment – we’ve been very fortunate thanks to their hard work.”


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