Here and Now

“St. Mike’s has saved my life three times!” exclaims John C. Ferth. As the gregarious businessman-turned philanthropist prepares to celebrate his 88th birthday, he reflects on the trio of health interventions that sparked his desire to give back to St. Michael’s Hospital.

The first one occurred in 1992. After experiencing severe stomach cramps that wouldn’t subside, he took a cab to the hospital. Extensive examinations revealed acute inflammation of the pancreas, otherwise known as pancreatitis. The gastroenterology team successfully treated and cared for him.

Then, in 1994, he returned to St. Michael’s to receive open-heart surgery after an angiogram revealed a faulty valve. Ferth has nothing but praise for his former cardiologist, Dr. Trevor Robinson. “He examined me twice a year and would often call me at home. He’s a first-class cardiologist,” he says of Dr. Robinson, who recently retired. “The surgery I received was essentially a life-saver, as I was in pretty bad shape.”

I consider myself blessed to have chosen this hospital. I’m very, very grateful. — John C. Ferth, former patient of St. Michael's Hospital

And, most recently, on Canada Day 2016, he began experiencing severe chest pains while out with friends. The pains intensified, and by 4 a.m. he was rushed to St. Michael’s. “They examined me in the Emergency Department and told me I had suffered a heart attack,” says Ferth. The Emergency team called in interventional cardiologist, Dr. Akshay Bagai, who ran additional tests and performed a stent procedure. “I was lucky to have Dr. Bagai. His team is so efficient, so fast and so precise. Knowledge in the field of cardiology has made great strides over the years. I know that St. Mike’s stands out in this area. I consider myself blessed to have chosen this hospital. I’m very, very grateful.”

Ferth has been making annual donations to St. Michael’s Foundation for nearly a quarter of a century. Recently, however, he decided to make an even larger gift by donating stocks towards the new 17-storey Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower. The best tax advantage for a gift of stock is a direct donation, as the federal government has eliminated the capital gains tax payable on the appreciated value. “When I found out that I could donate securities without paying the capital gains tax, I felt this was the perfect way to say ‘Thank You,’” says Ferth. As an investor and former businessman, Ferth feels fortunate to have the opportunity to invest in causes he cares about.

Flowing with optimism, Ferth views his life as one rich with travel, music and romance. Before opening a specialty music shop in Toronto – which he successfully ran for three decades – the Hungarian-born entrepreneur spent time living in Northern France where he learned to speak the language. Being bilingual was a skill that paid off when he met his late wife, Pierrette, at Fran’s Restaurant in 1972. She was transferred to Toronto from the Canadian Press’s Montreal Bureau on a one-year contract. “I saw her there with some people I knew and they invited me to sit down,” he remembers. “I told her I spoke French, and she said, ‘high school French, I presume!’” To impress her, he wrote a French poem on a napkin and passed it to her. “She looked at the poem, then looked at me and that was it. That was the ‘forever after’ moment. It was a 39-year love affair. A total partnership. Just wonderful.”

When asked what legacy he envisions leaving, Ferth hesitates. “My philosophy is to live in the here and now – and right here, right now, everything is excellent.” His philosophy of living in the present has set the foundation for his philanthropy – it’s the reason why he’s choosing to make a significant gift today. “I try to have fun and associate with nice people and appreciate what I have and count my blessings – and try to give back, when I can.”

To speak with one of our staff about a planned gift to St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, please contact Cynthia Collantes at 416.864.5879 or CollantesC@smh.ca.