Sonia Bata at a Bata Gala Sports Day in the early 1950s

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It is with sadness that we report the passing of Sonja Bata, widow of the late Tomas Bata, on Tuesday 20 February 2018 in Toronto Western Hospital, aged 91.  She died peacefully with family and friends at her side.

A statement from the Bata Shoe Museum in Canada (which she founded) summarises her vast achievements and character as follows:

“We are saddened to announce the passing of Mrs. Sonja Bata, Founder of the Bata Shoe Museum. A passionate collector, philanthropist, world traveller and business leader, Sonja Bata’s thirst for knowledge was both infectious and inspirational. Her drive for design excellence permeated every facet of her life and she encouraged this from those around her.

Her forward-thinking and innovative ideas, as well as her resilient drive for learning and discovery, earned her a global reputation both within the museum world, as well as within the worlds of business, the environment and arts & culture. Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1983, Sonja Bata was also an Honourary Naval Captain for over 24 years. She devoted her time to myriad organizations, including The National Design Council, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Council for Business and the Arts in Canada and Junior Achievement.

Since the 1940s, she had searched for footwear treasures, building an extraordinary collection of over 13,000 artefacts chronicling 4,500 years of history. As the Founder of the Bata Shoe Museum, Sonja Bata avidly raised the international profile of the Museum to become a world-renowned institution dedicated to the scholarship of footwear history. We will greatly miss her vision, her passion, her curiosity and her leadership.”

Sonja Bata was very supportive of the work of the Bata Heritage Centre in the UK.  We shall miss her inspiration and encouragement.

In our featured image above, she is attending one of the annual Bata Gala Sports Days held on the renowned Bata sports ground in East Tilbury in the early 1950s.   She is accompanied by Ernest Rumsey (on the left) and General Spears, a director of the British Bata Shoe Company.

Sonja Bata took a great interest in the work of the East Tilbury factory. The picture below shows her at the Spring Shoeline Conference in 1953.  Her “design excellence”, mentioned in the obituary above, suggests that she added a special contribution to the designs of the shoes produced at the factory.   In the picture, she’s second from the left.  Seated immediately to her left at the conference table are John Tusa and her husband, Tomas Bata.

Senior Bata management discussing designs at the Spring Shoeline Development 1953 in East Tilbury
Senior Bata management discussing designs at the Spring Shoeline Development 1953 in East Tilbury

Please follow the links below to reports and obituaries that have been posted on the websites of the Bata Shoe Museum, The Star (Canada’s largest online news site) and CTV Toronto.

Sonja Bata (1926 – 2018)

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8 thoughts on “Sonja Bata (1926 – 2018)

  1. I am eternally grateful to Mrs Sonja Bata who gave full recognition to my Zlin – Czechoslovakia unique parents who there worked in Bata to be the first Indo-Slovak marriage, right during the Nazi occupation. I was born in Bata hospital, Zlin to have the full Bata imprint. I carried this with me to India when my father went to be part of Bata-india development. Post my high school, I came to study, marry and settle here in Ottawa Canada, retired. Mrs Bata kindly arranged for the historic photo of my parent’s wedding to be sent to Hodonin, Czech Republic where my parents low profile then married. I went to Hodonin to officially mount the photo with the mayor, at the City Hall entry to the auditorium where they had married (1941) Interesting Bata history!

    1. Roman,

      Thank you so much for sending in this comment and your connection with Mrs Bata. It really illustrates how much she really cared about the employees of the Bata organisation. As you say, it is very “interesting Bata history”.

  2. I will soon be sending an interesting package of my parent’s service in Bata – Zlin and their passage through Tilbury, with childhood me, before departure to Bata-India. This documentation may be an interesting part of the Bata Heritage Centre.

    1. Roman,

      We look forward to receiving the documentation. It is very kind of you to send it to us. We shall ensure that it becomes part of the collection at the Bata Heritage Centre here in East Tilbury.

      Please send it to the address given on our Home Page under “How To Contact Us” to ensure that it arrives safely.

      Thank you.

  3. Hello,

    Have you received the documentation on my parent’s unique Bata marriage of Slovak mother and India father from, Bata Zlin to Hodonin. I was then born in the Bata hospital in Zlin. Please advise.

    Sentimentally Roman

    1. Dear Roman,

      Thank you for your message. I am pleased to say that our Chairman, Mike Tarbard, has received your documentation safely. He has asked me to pass on his apologies for not confirming receipt earlier – he has been very busy.

      Best wishes.

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