Anuta Moloff Tonberg-Edwards
Anuta Tonberg (Moloff)

May 10, 1886August 11, 1951 (65 years old)
Hometown: Vancouver, BC
May 10, 1886August 11, 1951
(65 years old) | Vancouver, BC

Life Story

Anuta (Chana Rochel b. Mordechai, 5/10/1886-8/11/1951) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia as was her mother before her.  This was unusual.  At the time, Jews were not allowed to live in that city without special dispensation from the Czar.  Her father, Mordechai (Max) Moloff (Mordechai b. Shmuel Tzvi, 1859-1926) owned a clock/watch-making factory and jewelry store, but was likely born in Grodna.  How he got to St. Petersburg and married Cecilia Ein (Tzirel b. Sholom, 1864-1942) remains a mystery. 

Anuta was the eldest of four children. She grew up in the company of her brother Maurice (1887-1923).  Her other two brothers, Jack (1898-1943) and Myer (1900-1978), were much younger.

When Anuta was barely four years old and enjoying a somewhat privileged life, young Edward Tonberg (Eliyahu Mordechai b. Michal, 1879-1939) came from his native Latvia to work in the factory bringing papers authenticating his apprenticeship under the master clock-maker, Juhelja Mosha Oserovich Katz of the Rjatovsky Society.  Some years later, the handsome Edward caught her eye, earned the approval of her parents, and won her hand in marriage.

Growing unrest in the Russian Empire lurked in the background of this romance.  The waves of pogroms and rising tide of anti-Semitism that rocked the rural areas must also have been felt in the major cities.  Around 1901, Mordechai and Cecilia immigrated to Canada with their two youngest children, leaving newlywed Anuta and Edward to manage the factory and store. Among the family papers is a power of attorney granted by Edward to Anuta on 7/9/1901 with respect to the St. Petersburg businesses.  The gravity of the situation must be measured by their ages at the time, 21 and 14 respectively.  We are unsure of whether Maurice accompanied his parents. Being only 13 at the time, he would have been too young to take over the business.

Anuta’s parents first settled in Winnipeg and tried to make a living manufacturing soda water.  Sometime after that venture failed, they relocated to Vancouver and went back into the jewelry business. Their company, Rogers Ltd., located at 317 West Hastings, was later inherited by Anuta’s brother Jack.  With his financial and social position restored, Mordechai may have served as president of the Heatley Street synagogue.  Anuta’s brother Myer also went into the jewelry business and became the owner of Shores at 440 West Hasting.  The brothers were said to have been competitive and were apparently among the first jewelers in Vancouver to grow their business by extending credit to customers. 

Mordechai and Ceclia likely received encouragement and assistance to emigrate from Ceclia’s father, Solomon Ein, who was a widely-traveled tobacco merchant.  Solomon had immigrated to New York in March 1886, prior to Anuta’s birth.  Although he became a US citizen in 1894, he appears to have moved to Canada about 1900.  Among the family papers is a Yiddish letter he sent to Cecelia on 11/28/1903 referencing labels for the soda water that he was having printed and a package that he previously sent to her via rail that hadn’t been received.  His letterhead designated him as a principal of the Turkish Tobacco and Cigarette Factory of 353 St. James Street, Montreal. 

Anuta and Edward left St. Petersburg about 1904 and spent time in Riga, Latvia, during which there are many entries to their household guestbook.  Likely impelled by the Russian Revolution and the urging of Anuta’s parents, they departed for North America coordinating their journey with Edward’s eldest brother, Lucian, and his family.  The couple arrived at Ellis Island on May 30, 1906. They soon made their way to Brandon, Manitoba where their first son, Max (1907-1989), was born, but relocated to Vancouver sometime before their second son, Paul (1909-1983), was born. Their third son Bert (1912-1999) was also born in Vancouver.

Anuta’s adult life was not nearly as idyllic as her childhood had been.  Anuta and Edward moved to California and back to Vancouver at least two or three times.  Edward found greater financial success there, but Anuta would invariably get homesick for her family in Vancouver.  They were in San Francisco in 1915 and again at the time their youngest son, Gilbert (1923-1995), was born.  They were living in Los Angeles when Mordechai died in 1926.

In December 1923, Maurice died of tuberculosis.  His wife predeceased him by nine months leaving their 2 year old son Samuel an orphan.  With their own infant Gilbert in tow, Anuta and Edward rushed to Los Angeles to tend the situation with financial support from Mordechai.  Samuel was nurtured by family friends and relations in San Francisco and Vancouver until he was finally adopted by a prosperous Jewish family in Juneau, Alaska and became Pete Warner.

At one time, Edward had a jewelry store in the 1000 Block of Granville, said to have been called Edward’s Jewelry. According to family legend, customers would frequently ask for Mr. Edwards.  Anuta’s sons used this story as rationale for changing their name from Tonberg to Edwards.  Max Tonberg became Max Edwards sometime prior to 1939.  Gilbert changed his name sometime after high school graduation (1941).  Some of the boys in the next generation were given Tonberg for a middle name.  We later learned that it was common practice for eastern European Jews to anglicize their family names in that era.

Several of Anuta’s sons worked with their uncle Myer at Shores Jewelers. As young adults, the brothers worked together for a time under Max’s leadership operating shaver and cutlery stores in Vancouver, Seattle and California.  Max had intended to go to medical school, but cut his education short in order to support his family.  Gilbert would not have been able to graduate from UBC without his help.  Bert later became a successful and prominent realtor. 

Edward died from a stroke in 1939 leaving Anuta to care for her ailing mother with help from her brothers.  In turn, Anuta was always dear to the hearts of her sons who supported her through difficult times.  Although she died of a heart condition in 1951, she lived long enough to enjoy the births of seven of her 11 grandchildren.