Providence Healthcare
Providence Healthcare

Conservator Alicia Coutts-Farrugia restored a statue of Mother Mary that has graced Providence's hall for more than 60 years. (photos by James Wysotski)

Family’s ties with Unity Health run deep

Farrugia family has four generations of connections to our hospitals

By Emily Dawson

Jan. 13, 2020 - Unity Health Toronto has touched the lives of countless people over its 162-year history but the Farrugia family has a unique connection to our hospitals that spans four generations.

Recently, Beth Johnson, Executive Director of Mission Integration, brought a statue of Mother Mary that has graced Providence’s halls for more than 60 years to conservator Alicia Coutts-Farrugia.

While discussing the statue’s restoration, Coutts-Farrugia mentioned that her husband, Joseph, has “Providence” as his middle name in honour of a special relationship between his grandfather John and our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, that traces back to 1928.

John Farrugia Sr. worked and volunteered with the Sisters for 55 years. As a first-class engineer, he oversaw many of their building projects – including the construction of Providence Villa and Hospital – until his retirement in 1983.

“When the depression hit in 1929, John Sr. had been working for the Sisters for a year and they had a very strong relationship. The Sisters were able to keep him on during the depression and that fostered a lasting trust,” said Coutts-Farrugia.


The Mother Mary statue at Providence, before (left) and after restoration by Alicia Coutts-Farrugia.

Farrugia Sr.’s impact lives on at Providence. He’s prominently featured in our Memory Lane displays and the John Farrugia Award (1994-2004) was given annually to an employee who demonstrated his qualities of integrity, wisdom and dedicated service.

The family’s relationship with the Sisters continued in the next generation as well.

“My father-in-law, John Jr., remembers getting cookies from the Sisters and following his dad on jobs around the hospitals. I believe that influenced his decision to become an architect specializing in hospitals,” said Coutts-Farrugia. “Over the years, he did major architectural work at St. Michael’s as well as projects at Providence and St. Joe’s.”

Joseph and his siblings were born at St. Michael’s and his daughter, Avery, recently received care at St. Joseph’s, bringing the third and fourth generations into the Unity Health community.

“We’re proud that John Sr. is remembered and that he still means so much to Providence’s community. He was an excellent example for his children and grandchildren and it will continue with our children too,” said Coutts-Farrugia.

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    Alicia Coutts-Farrugia and her husband, Joseph, carry the newly restored statue of Mother Mary back into Providence.

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    Alicia Coutts-Farrugia dusts a statue of Mother Mary that has graced Providence’s halls for more than 60 years.

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    Joseph Farrugia, his wife Alicia and his father John Jr. stand in front of a display at Providence about his grandfather John Sr.

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    Alicia Coutts-Farrugia does finishing touches on the restoration of the Mother Mary statue.

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    The newly restored Mother Mary statue returns to Providence.

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    Alicia Coutts-Farrugia and Beth Johnson, Executive Director of Mision Integration, install the Mother Mary statue into its alcove.

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    John Jr., Joseph, Alicia and Beth stand in front of a display that introduces the John M. Farrugia Award, which was established in May 1994 on John Farrugia Sr.'s 90th birthday.

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    Alicia Coutts-Farrugia works on the restoring the Mother Mary statue.