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Influential Canadian retailer John de Boer dies at 74

 Image of John de BoerJohn de Boer

TORONTO — Influential contemporary furniture retailer John de Boer, who was president and CEO of the five-unit DeBoer's chain from the early 1980s until the business closed last year, has died at age 74.

He succeeded his father, Anne, who opened the first outlet in 1950 and had stores in Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa, Ontario. For a time there was a sixth store in Pickering, Ontario.

De Boer decided to close the high-end contemporary specialist after accepting an all-cash offer for two store properties in the Toronto area. He couldn't find a suitable location to reopen the business.

The company was founded in the family's hometown of Hoogeveen, the Netherlands, before the outbreak of war in Europe. However, the Germans took over Anne de Boer's store and arrested him after discovering he was helping Jews as part of the Dutch underground.

The de Boer clan was a family of furniture retailers. John's brother Gerrit - popularly known as The Furniture Farmer - was president of Idomo Furniture, the Toronto destination retailer that shuttered in 2011. John's sister, Elizabeth, was owner of Heritage Interiors.

DeBoer's was one of the first Canadian independent furniture retailers to floor European contemporary furniture and to import goods directly from Europe and the Pacific Rim. It was also a pioneer in merchandising high-end contemporary product and pieces of furniture that John acquired during his travels around the world.

In a statement, his family said John DeBoer was known by many people and organizations for his generous and kind spirit and was a loyal friend and mentor to many. His love for travel took him to more than 150 countries for business, pleasure and community service.

Survivors include his wife, children, grandchildren and siblings.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. today (Wednesday, Sept. 4) at the Willowdale Christian Reformed Church, 70 Hilda Ave., North York, Ontario.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to Rotary International's End Polio Now campaign; World Renew (formerly CRWRC); or World Vision Canada.

Condolences may also be left at


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