In Memory of Ben Weider, 1923-2008
It is with a profound sense of sadness and a great feeling of personal loss that we announce the passing on Friday, October 17, of Dr. Ben Weider, CM, CQ, SBStJ of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Dr. Weider was the father of Eric Weider, who is the publisher of Armchair General magazine and president and CEO of the Weider History Group. Dr Weider was a much-honored international entrepreneur whose many achievements included being the president and founder of the International Napoleonic Society and the founder of the International Federation of Body Builders. A World War II veteran, Dr. Weider was the Honorary Colonel of the Canadian 62d Field Artillery Regiment. Other notable honors among the many he received include the Order of Canada, the National Order of Quebec, Commander of the Order of St. John, and the Cross of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Dr. Weider is a member of the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame and was nominated in 1984 for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Weider was a true “renaissance man,” whose achievements as a Soldier, author, historian, fitness proponent, benefactor of the arts, and entrepreneur reflect his many and varied interests. His enthusiastic promotion of sport and fitness, shared by his brother, Joe Weider, led to the founding of the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) in 1946. The IFBB has over 130 country members and was granted official recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 1998. The Weider brothers justifiably receive credit for initiating the fitness revolution that has profoundly influenced health and fitness worldwide. The book Brothers of Iron, co-authored by Ben and Joe Weider, is the fascinating story of how the Weider brothers effected this global transformation. The Weider brothers’ many outstanding achievements in the area of sport and fitness include their phenomenally successful sport- and fitness-related corporations featuring magazine publishing, sports and bodybuilding equipment and nutritional products.
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Dr. Weider, who was the world’s foremost expert on Napoleon, was the founder and president of the International Napoleonic Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to the serious academic study of the Napoleonic era. Headquartered in Montreal, the Society is established in 43 countries worldwide, and through its popular website (napoleonicsociety.com) gathers the leading minds on the Napoleonic era for the purpose of studying, reviewing and financially supporting the works of scholarship pertaining to this field, as well as presenting awards for such works. As a historian who studied Napoleon and his era for over 50 years, Dr. Weider was best known for his groundbreaking investigations that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Napoleon was murdered by arsenic poisoning on St. Helena in 1821. His many published works on this subject include Assassination at St. Helena, a book that has been translated into over 40 languages and which has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Dr. Weider’s most recent book on Napoleon is The Wars Against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars written with co-author Gen. Michel Franceschi. This outstanding book is a lasting tribute to Dr. Weider’s lifetime dedication to seeking and revealing the truth about Napoleon and the era that bears his name. Dr. Weider’s commitment to promoting Napoleonic studies also lives on in the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at Florida State University through its Ben Weider Chair in Revolutionary Studies.
Dr. Weider was well known as a collector and a generous patron of the arts. In over a half-century of collecting Napoleon items and artifacts, he amassed an incomparable collection of such items, including the cap Napoleon wore during the historic 1812 campaign in Russia and locks of the emperor’s hair. With foresight and incredible generosity, Dr. Weider arranged for his priceless Napoleon collection to be donated to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to serve as the heart of the museum’s new Napoleon galleries, a rich cultural heritage for the people of Canada and, indeed, of the entire world. The official dedication ceremony is due to take place on October 23 – sadly, less than one week after Dr. Weider’s death. However, as one indication of the great respect and international renown in which Dr. Weider was held, distinguished guests invited to the ceremony include Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, and Prince Charles Napoleon, a direct descendant of Napoleon’s brother, Jerome. Yet, through this generous donation of his incomparable collection of Napoleon treasures, the museum’s new Napoleon galleries will stand as a permanent and highly fitting monument to Dr. Weider’s commitment to and patronage of the arts.
This short summary of an entire lifetime of notable achievements can hardly do justice to the profound impact Dr. Ben Weider has had on the many different areas and countless activities in which he was involved. His life and legacy have enriched everyone he knew as well as countless hundreds of thousands around the world who never had the privilege of knowing him personally. And although his sudden passing leaves a void in the lives of those of us who did have the honor of knowing him personally, we can take some comfort in knowing that Ben Weider leaves behind great and lasting legacies in many, many areas that touch us and will continue profoundly to influence us in years to come.
Please join us in extending our deepest, heartfelt sympathy to Eric Weider and the entire Weider family on the passing of one of the world’s truly unique individuals. I was honored to know him personally as a friend and mentor, and I will miss him terribly.
Jerry D. Morelock, FINS (Fellow of the International Napoleonic Society) is Armchair General magazine Editor in Chief.