Joseph Barnicke speaks at a recent Cardinal’s Dinner. The Catholic philanthropist and real estate broker was instrumental in starting the dinner 36 years ago. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Toronto

Joe Barnicke stood up for, supported his Catholic faith

  • May 26, 2015

TORONTO - When it came to supporting the work of his brothers and sisters in Christ, the late Joseph Barnicke could be counted on to put his money where their mouths were.

As one of Canada’s elite real estate brokers, Mr. Barnicke amassed wealth which he shared generously with many Catholic organizations in Toronto.

The St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, which Mr. Barnicke helped establish in the 1980s, alone received “over $1 million,” said Maria Dyck, the foundation’s CEO and president.

“He was the person who got the foundation started here at St. Joe’s back in the 1980s and he had been a vital force of the St. Joseph’s family ever since,” she said. “But he hadn’t been to a function for us in about a year. Joe had been in failing health for quite some time and he was quite ill at the end of it.”

Surrounded  by family, Mr. Barnicke passed away at his home on May 19. He was 92.

Born in Cudworth, Sask., the Barnicke family moved to Oakville, Ont., where young Joseph attended elementary and secondary school. After high school, a posting with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a flight instructor kept Mr. Barnicke in Canada and out of the crosshairs during the final years of the Second World War.  

From there Mr. Barnicke enrolled in the business program at the University of Toronto that was offered specifically for veterans. This landed him a sales manager position in 1947 with the O’Keefe Brewing Company, giving him the business acumen to go on to found J.J. Barnicke Ltd., Canada’s largest independently owned real estate firm.

Not only did his firm provide Mr. Barnicke the ability to make significant financial contributions to Catholic and non-Catholic charities, it also gave him a unique gift for closing the deal, something he would share with ShareLife’s Arthur Peters.

“Joe was willing to not only support financially but to support with his time and talent,” said Peters, executive director of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s charitable fundraising arm. “For ShareLife there would be times when I would call Joe and ask him to assist us speaking to somebody or to help securing a donation. He was always willing to do that.”

Mr. Barnicke was laid to rest on May 22. Peters said he will be reminded of his mentor at the annual Cardinal’s Dinner, which Mr. Barnicke helped establish 36 years ago.

“Joe was very generous to the Catholic Church in many different ways and he’s left a great legacy with the Cardinal’s Dinner,” he said. “We need more Joe Barnickes, people who are not afraid to stand up for their faith and support it.”

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