When Dr. John Scarfo’s parents moved to Canada from Italy they dreamed of an easier, more prosperous life for their family. They arrived in Canada with one child in 1909, but the family soon grew to twelve. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, tragedy struck the Scarfo family. Dr. Scarfo’s father died after being struck by a car in 1931.
Dr. Scarfo’s mother was left to raise the family alone with ten children still at home ranging in age from 2 to 22 years. In those days, there was no welfare and his mother had no money and no income to speak of. She eventually began receiving a widow’s pension of $42 per month. As was the practice in the 1930’s, all the children left school after grade 8 and attempted to find work, which was exceedingly difficult during the depression years.
Dr. Scarfo entered the work force after completing grade 8 in 1939. He worked in various low paying jobs for 6 ½ years until deciding to return to school. And he returned with a gusto, completing grades 9 to 12 in one year by taking afternoon, evening, and summer classes at three different schools, all while working half days at a construction company.
After earning his high school diploma, Dr. Scarfo completed his first year of pre-med at UBC. He then had to take a year off to earn money to continue his education. When he returned to continue his pre-med program he had the good fortune to meet Dr. Walter Gage, the dean of UBC. Dr. Scarfo was about to be passed over by the selection committee because financial situation might not allow him to complete medical school without interruption. Dr. Gage, who was on the committee, spoke up and said that he was certain he would be able to assist Dr. Scarfo “in one way or another” to ensure he completed his training. Not only did Dr. Gage provide guidance and direction, but he also supported Dr. Scarfo financially… out of his own pocket.
Dr. Scarfo never forgot this act of generosity and now he feels it’s his turn to pay it forward. He has established a bursary fund with the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan with the express goal of providing financial support to individuals who are working hard to better their lives.
The Dr. John & Kathy Scarfo Bursary Fund will support students who demonstrate a strong work ethic and who show that they are actively working to improve their financial situation. It is also important to Dr. Scarfo that applicants demonstrate a commitment to leading a healthy, active lifestyle.
Dr. John Scarfo has lived in Summerland for many years, having retired in Trout Creek.