Villa Scalabrini Retirement Center in Sun Valley, CA was opened for residents’ occupancy on July 16, 1979.
The 90- room facility, capable of accommodating up to 130 ambulatory senior citizens in single and some double occupancy rooms, was dedicated on April 22, 1979. The dedication ceremony was attended by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, L.A. Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Manning, other civic and religious dignitaries and a crowd of over 2,000 people.
Villa Scalabrini is the brain-child of Father Luigi Donanzan, of the Scalabrini Fathers of St. Charles (a missionary religious order for assistance to migrants) and is based on the concept that seniors should spend the sunset years of their lives in pleasant surroundings, engaged in stimulating activities among their peers. Once the idea was launched, it found immediate endorsement from His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Manning and great response from the Italian American community among whom a committee of prominent Southern California individuals was formed to raise the necessary funds.
Villa Scalabrini, located in Sun Valley, at the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains in the San Fernando Valley, is a modern, functional structure, universally praised in architectural circles as “a model home for senior citizens.” Designed by George Kirkpatrick and Panos Koulermos, architects, it is a one floor building with basement, covering a total area of 100,000 square feet.
Residents’ rooms are distributed around seven inside gardens that go by the names of famous Italian cities, such as: Palermo, Napoli, Roma, Firenze, Venezia, Milano, and Torino, thus offering the advantage of privacy and open air, while, at the same time, being all connected to the central facilities.
Among the special features of Villa Scalabrini are: a spacious and modern chapel for daily Mass, dining room, arts and crafts room, physical therapy room, physician’s room, podiatrist room, beauty parlor, barber shop, bocce court, TV rooms. The building also houses the Sisters’ quarters, for the Sisters of the Augustinian Recollect Order who generously give their time and service to the community of Villa Scalabrini.
The building is completely furnished in modern, elegant and functional style. Dining room, living room and entrance hall have furniture and chandeliers imported from Italy; also from Italy is the marble of the entrance.
Among the many outstanding donors who made the construction of Villa Scalabrini possible are: Henry Salvatori, Jimmy Durante (whose bust can be admired in the Napoli Garden, a work by sculptor Carlo Rambaldi), Michael Monteleone and Frank Sinatra.
Frank Sinatra held a “Tribute to Dolly Sinatra”, a fundraising night in Las Vegas in November 1977, and a fundraising show at the Universal Amphitheater on June 3, 1979. A life-size picture of Dolly Sinatra, mother of the world famous entertainer, can be seen outside the Chapel which is dedicated in her memory. Dolly Sinatra, who died tragically in January, 1977, had termed Villa Scalabrini “one of my favorite charities.”