It’s the 60th anniversary of the Mr. and Mrs. P.A. Woodward’s Foundation, and it’s my guess that unless you’re part of the medical community, you’ve never heard of it. It’s an amazing charitable organization with a mandate to improve the health of British Columbians, and gives away over a million dollars a year to do just that.
In the 1960s the Foundation provided the funds so that St. Paul’s Hospital could build the first ICU in Canada. The Foundation funded the New Brighton Swimming Pool in the 1970s, and in the 1980s dived into helping non profits fighting AIDS, supplying safe houses for women and running therapeutic riding schools for disabled children. As government funds dwindled the Foundation has furnished chronic care facilities and battered women’s shelters, and bought high tech equipment for northern hospitals.
The Foundation was started by Percival Archibald Woodward, known as Mr. P.A. to his employees, and Puggy to his friends. Along with his brother Billy (BC’s Lieutenant Governor from 1941 to 1946) Puggy ran the Woodwards Department Stores for many years, and H.R. MacMillan once called him the “best businessman raised on the Pacific Coast.” He never finished high school.
It was Puggy who created Woodward’s famous food floor—and with it, turned the entire concept of grocery retailing on its head. And, it was his idea, in 1927, to build a 75-foot-high beacon modelled after the Eiffel Tower to act as a giant billboard advertisement for the department store. The tower held a searchlight that threw out a two million candlepower beam which revolved six times each minute and could be seen from Vancouver Island. When the war hit he was told to remove the tower and the 16-foot W took its place. Puggy predicted that malls were the wave of the future, and he was a driving force behind the Park Royal Shopping Centre, which in 1950, was the first shopping mall in Canada.
Even with all these business achievements, Puggy made his greatest mark as one of the province’s most generous philanthropists. It’s his name on the Woodward Library and on the Health Sciences Centre at UBC. He died in 1968.
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