Mansour Pourjam was a popular colleague at the Ottawa dental clinic where he worked for the past 12 years.
“He had an infectious personality: He had a laugh that could light up a room,” said Shelley Perras, office manager at the Ottawa Denture and Implant Centre where Pourjam worked as a dental technician. “He was always such a positive person. He had the funniest laugh.”
Pourjam, 53, a graduate of Carleton University, died in the crash of Ukraine International Airline Flight 752 shortly after takeoff from Tehran. He had travelled to Iran, his native country, to visit his extended family for the holidays.
Perras woke up to news of the crash and worried that her colleague could be on the flight since she knew he was leaving Tehran on Tuesday. The plane’s manifest, published online Wednesday, confirmed her worst fears.
“He’s a friend and a colleague for the last 12 years so it has been a very, very tragic day,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
Pourjam grew up in Tehran, the Iranian capital, and came to Canada in the 1990s to study biology at Carleton University. He graduated with distinction in 2001, and hoped to pursue a career as a dentist.
But he had difficultly securing a spot in dentistry school and instead studied as a dental technologist, learning to design and build oral devices such as dentures, crowns, bridges and implants.
Denturist Robert MacLeay, owner of the Ottawa Denture and Implant Centre, called Pourjam both a friend and employee.
“This is kind of tough: We’ve known him for a long time,” said MacLeay. “This was someone who could always make you laugh. It was just his nature: He wasn’t trying to be funny; he was just being himself.”
MacLeay remembers Pourjam describing his required military service in Iran. During one exercise, dozens of soldiers had to stand their rifles against a wall in a courtyard. “He was the guy who caused them to all fall over,” MacLeay says. “That’s who he was.”
Pourjam, a divorced father, was devoted to his son Ryan, 13, and loved the outdoors and cottage life. “His son was the light of his life,” Perras said. A nephew from Tehran was also living with him in Barrhaven and attending high school.
Members of Pourjam’s small, tight-knit office often vacationed together. “We’re a family,” said Perras. “It’s tragic. He’s been my friend for 12 years. It’s a void, it’s awful.”
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