Giving ‘the gift of life’
Local philanthropist Leon Judah Blackmore loved life.
His appreciation for life, and for community, has extended after his passing in 2015, at the age of 81, with a gift of $18.4 million to our VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
Just before the Holocaust, a young Leon Judah Blackmore fled Poland with his family to escape persecution. That experience built the moral foundation for Leon, who eventually became a quiet, yet significant presence in Vancouver’s real estate community.
Leon told friends he wanted his wealth allocated to causes where it could make the most impact and help the most people. His donation to our VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is distributed across several areas, including:
- construction of the new hybrid operating room at VGH
- construction of the new and expanded Sleep Disorders Centre to open at UBC Hospital
- creating a new cardiac diagnostic clinic to open in the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Centre
- funding projects for the Men’s Health Initiative
- innovative cardiac research
“This gift, which is one of the largest our foundation has ever received, has a huge impact on these four priorities, which are going to advance areas of health that will benefit all British Columbians,” says Barbara Grantham, president and CEO of VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.
The donation amount – $18.4 million – is not a random figure. Eighteen in Hebrew means “chai” or “life” and that symbolism represents the fervent lust for life Leon had every day.
“In this way, Leon gave ‘the gift of life’ to VCH and the people of British Columbia who need our services,” says Dr. Jaap Hamburger, a VGH cardiologist who looked after Leon and became his friend.
The suffering of the Jewish people throughout history, especially during the Holocaust, was central to Leon’s approach to community. “When you come from a background where everything is taken away from you and you have to start your life over, everything is appreciated,” explains Dr. Larry Goldenberg, who met Leon as his urologist.
Dr. Jaap Hamburger wishes Leon was around today to see the impact he is having at VGH and UBC Hospital. “I only wish I could lead him around the hospital today and show him these things,” Dr. Hamburger says with a sad smile. “He was a good friend – I miss him. I think he would be very happy and proud – he was a strong, disciplined, hard-working man. Striving in everything he did for justice and mercy as the pillars of society.”
Renaming Centennial Pavilion in Leon’s honour
On May 24, in appreciation of his generous and significant donation, VCH and the Foundation publicly announced the renaming of Vancouver General Hospital’s Centennial Pavilion to the Leon Judah Blackmore Pavilion.
To watch a video about our benefactor and learn more about Leon Judah Blackmore’s legacy, visit our VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation website here.