SCCC Swiss Canadian Chamber of Commerce (Ontario)

SUISSE news Spring 2018 / May 2018

Sonja Ingrid Bata

The Bata family is deeply saddened to announce the passing of our mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Sonja I. Bata, on February 20, 2018 at age 91.
The world has lost a woman of tremendous vision, vitality and integrity, whose life was dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in countless domains.

Sonja Ingrid Bata, née Wettstein, was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on November 8, 1926. At the age of 19, she interrupted her architectural studies to marry Thomas J. Bata, the son of the Czechoslovak shoe manufacturer.

Throughout the 62 years of their marriage, until Thomas J. Bata's death in 2008, Sonja Bata shared his total dedication to the family enterprise and his pride in the contributions which it made to the social and economic wellbeing of its employees and the countries and communities in which it operated. As a team, they travelled indefatigably on business to the far corners of the earth. Sonja Bata played a pivotal role in building the global Bata organization. Following Thomas J. Bata's death, she continued to promote their joint ideal of Responsible Capitalism.

Her business travels led to a fascination for rare and traditional footwear. In 1985 Sonja Bata commissioned architect Raymond Moriyama to design the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto in order to house her vast collection of historic and contemporary footwear, and illuminate human history and culture through shoes.

In recent years, Sonja Bata has worked to revitalize Batawa, the factory town that her husband founded on emigrating to Canada in 1939, as a model sustainable community.

Sonja Bata believed strongly in public service and took a leadership role in many volunteer organizations, including the National Design Council, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Junior Achievement of Canada, North York General Hospital, the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada, the Council for Canadian Unity, the Royal Military College of Canada and York University.

In the domain of business, Sonja Bata served as a Director of Alcan Aluminium Limited, CT Financial, the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. 

As a loyal Canadian, Sonja Bata was particularly proud to have been the longest serving Honourary Captain in Canadian Navy. 

Honours awarded to Sonja Bata include Officer of the Order of Canada, Retail Council of Canada Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Business Hall of Fame, CESO Award for International Development, B’Nai Brith Humanitarian Award and the silver medal of the United Nations Environmental Programme. Eight universities in Canada and Europe conferred Honourary Doctorates on Sonja Bata.

Mrs. Bata is survived by her children, Thomas G. Bata, Christine Schmidt, Monica Pignal and Rosemarie Bata, her nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.