Peter Shizuma Ito led a humble and quiet life in Scarborough, but privately developed a deep appreciation for the hospitals at Scarborough Health Network (SHN). The three hospitals served as a roadmap of key milestones throughout Peter’s life.
During his 87 years, Peter built a strong connection with SHN – from the care his parents and siblings received, to the birth of his many nephews and nieces. Unnoticed by his family members, Peter quietly became a regular donor at Centenary hospital for 18 years until his passing in 2016.
“He was very appreciative of the care that was given to all our family members throughout the years, at the various Scarborough hospitals,” shares Steve Shiraishi, Peter’s nephew. “He grew up with an interesting early-life and was not always in a space with access to good health care. When you live like that, you learn what it’s like to be without proper amenities and I think that’s why he became very appreciative of the hospitals.”
After being a long-time supporter of SHN, Peter wanted to leave behind a legacy to make a meaningful difference for future patients. He made an incredible and modest gesture through his will by committing a percentage of his estate to SHN Foundation.
“He lived in Scarborough for over 65 years and he really built a strong connection with the hospitals and the community,” continues Steve. “I think he just wanted to show his gratitude.”
Peter’s life and appreciation of good health care started in 1929, when he was born to Japanese immigrants in Eburne, British Columbia, now modern-day Richmond. Peter grew up in a large family, having six sisters and three brothers.
“They had a pretty tough life,” Steve says. “At that time, it was hard for immigrating families, especially from Japan, to immigrate to Canada. My grandfather would take random jobs to make ends meet for his 10 children.”
Despite harsh times, the family had a sense of comradery within the large Japanese-Canadian community located in Eburne at the turn of the Century. However, things would take a turn for the worst for Peter’s family after World War II began in 1939.
Peter was only 12 years old when Canada declared war on Japan in December 1941. Shortly after, in 1942, his entire family was forcibly removed from their home and into a Japanese-Canadian internment camp, at Hastings Park, where they were detained in exhibition buildings and stables alongside many other Japanese-Canadians. Peter and his family experienced what it was like to live in horrific conditions. As the war progressed, his family would repeatedly be pushed further in-land, to various internment camps across Western Canada.
“The family was moved around many times from camp to camp and it was just a very terrible experience for them.” shared Steve.
When the war ended, the family of twelve eventually relocated to Scarborough, Ontario in the late 1940s. His parents continued working odd jobs until they could purchase land to become farmers. From there, Peter’s passion and aptitude in art began to blossom. Inspired by nature, life, and the vast farms and lands of early Scarborough neighbourhoods, Peter eventually became an award-winning graduate at the Ontario College of Arts in Toronto.
Peter had a successful art career, working at Maclean-Hunter for 37 years and as an Art Director at The Financial Post before retiring in Scarborough in the late 1980s. When Peter retired, he grew a passion for Japanese brush-painting, called Sumi-e, where he also became an award-winning artist and was one of the earliest members of the Sumi-e Club based at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in North York. He would go on to teach Sumi-e to many students until the end of his life.
“My uncle was a very talented artist… very accomplished and well-respected throughout the community. He had a passion for teaching and enjoyed growing the knowledge and skills of others,” remembers Steve. “After his career, he spent a lot of his time giving back and spending time with his family, hosting regular gatherings and reunions and just being appreciative of what he had.”
SHN Foundation receives many bequests like Peter’s every year and these donations have translated into more than $600,000.00 last year in charitable donations. Even a small percentage of your estate can make a tremendous difference at our hospitals, assisting with the purchase of much-needed supplies and equipment, and contributing to enhancements to our hospital infrastructure and facilities.
To plan a tax-advantaged legacy gift, speak to professional advisors. For more information about leaving a legacy gift to SHN Foundation, contact Verna Chen, Director of Stewardship and Legacy Giving, at 416-438-2911, extension 6040, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for Peter, he leaves behind a legacy that his family can be proud of. When asked how he thinks his uncle would like to be remembered, Steve shared that “he’s always just been a very calm and loving individual. A good son, a good uncle, and a good brother – it was just part of his personality, to be appreciative of what you have. And that’s what he taught us all.”