Vancouver, 1963. Vincenzo Albanese has left everything behind in post-war Italy to pursue a dream. A dream all immigrants carry with them — a chance at a new life.
Vincenzo hit the ground running in pursuit of that dream. He worked the trades to make a living during the day, and at night he went to school to learn English. Later, he would start his own construction company, helping build the city we know and love today with his own two hands.
Building a new future for his family
Vincenzo loved his family and enjoyed spending his time with them, particularly his nieces and nephews. When he wasn’t working, he was with them: skiing and ice skating in the winter, enjoying tours of Stanley Park, and eventually tackling sports like marathon running with his niece, Maria.
“Vincenzo was a very athletic man,” says Angela. “He loved to play sports like tennis, swimming, and you could never get him to stop running.”
This was Vincenzo’s way of life, and he loved it. Even after his cancer diagnosis, he never gave up on trying to bring a smile to his family members’ faces.
Facing down cancer
In September 2014, Vincenzo was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He fought bravely for more than a year, but in November 2015 he passed away peacefully in palliative care at VGH. Vincenzo chose to leave his estate to his family members and to several charities, including VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
“He wanted to support those who needed it the most,” says Angela. “He loved Vancouver and wanted to take care of others in it, and he thought there was nothing better than the hospital caring for sick people.”
Vincenzo left his gift for the Foundation to distribute according to our most urgent needs. This decision would allow the Foundation to distribute his funds to several key and meaningful aspects of care, impacting thousands of patients across the province.
“If he knew where the money was going, I know he would be happy,” says Angela.
A legacy Impacting thousands of lives
Vincenzo’s incredible legacy gift is playing a significant role in funding several health care programs and state-of-the-art equipment. As immigrants, the family knows firsthand the struggles of communication in a new country, so none are more meaningful to them than the virtual interpreter.
This program is particularly meaningful to Angela, who recalls her first time spent in hospital after arriving to Vancouver from Italy in the 60s. On Christmas Eve, she had injured her knee and had to come to VGH, but she was unable to adequately explain her needs to the hospital staff.
“I remember I was in bed on Christmas, it was nighttime, and the window was open,” says Angela. “It was getting so cold and I couldn’t get out of bed, but I didn’t know how to explain to anyone that I needed that kind of help. I sat there, cold and alone on Christmas in a new country. I was afraid. So, I understand firsthand how important this program will be.”
The virtual interpreter, which is currently in use across Vancouver Coastal Health, helps medical staff communicate with patients in over 240 languages, including sign language. Within a matter of minutes, patients and physicians can be connected with a live audio or video interpreter, increasing the efficiency of delivery of care.
Gone, but not forgotten
Vincenzo’s legacy is now forever tied to health care. His generosity and warmth in life carry on through the lives and wellbeing of the thousands of patients who will now have access to these new programs and vital pieces of equipment.
Thank you, Vincenzo.