During Italian Heritage Month in June we paid tribute to thirty of the pioneer Italian families that were in Kelowna prior to 1919. We welcome your comments, corrections and additions to these stories. Our thanks to Shirley Larsen (Risso), Gertie Bachmann (Culos), Brenda Shaw (Pioli), Linda Ghezzi (Mussato), Becky Chapman (Orsi), Gina Yarrow (Alimonti) and Elmo and Emma (Turri) Rantucci for their help in gathering this information. Special recognition to Bob Hayes (Okanagan Historical Society) for his inspiration and guidance.
Other families arriving here before 1919 include: Bertucci, Rossi, Dal Col, Biagioni, Ceresi, Cavani, Betuzzi and Pellini. We have started collecting information on these families and welcome any help you can give us. By the 1920’s many more families made their journeys to Canada. We would love to have their stories recorded as well.
In 1910, the first Orsi family member to arrive here was Pasquale. In 1915 he married Maria Coli. Next was his brother Egidio, who arrived in Kelowna in 1913. Egidio met his future wife, Elsie Woods, at the “Kelowna Evaporator” where they were both working. Here, fruits and vegetables were dried and sent overseas to England for consumption by the troops serving in the First World War. Egidio spent ten years in Seattle as a member of the San Carlo Opera Company. By 1925 he moved back to Kelowna where he became a masonary contractor eventually forming Orsi and Sons Contracting. Elsie, who had arrived from England in 1914, was well known for her athletic prowness, particularly swimming, bowling and fishing. They had three children: Rino Les (Elsie), Gladys (John Chapman) and Arthur (Virginia).
Luigi Gaspardone arrived in Kelowna in 1904 and his wife, Maria Bevilacqua, made her journey in 1907. Maria was cousin to Rosa Bevilacqua, spouse of Giovanni Casorso. Luigi started work on the Casorso Ranch and continued all his life working on numerous Kelowna area farms. Luigi and Maria raised four children: Rosa (Dino Dapavo), Giuseppe (Dorothy Bernard), Angelo (Agnes Burns) and Camillo (Theresa Ungaro). They also raised foster child Maria Quadrello (Angus Davis).
Ippolito Angelo Pioli and Annunziata Mathilde Campligi were from the Tuscany region of Italy. Angelo came thru Ellis Island in 1910 and made his way to Kelowna to stay with the Casorso family. He farmed on seven lots in the Coronation Avenue area and did his chosen profession as a brick mason. In 1912 he went back to France where he met my grandmother. In 1913 they left for Canada and back to Kelowna where Angelo enlisted in the Calgary Horse Regiment. Angelo and Annunziata had two children, Lina (Russell Shaw) and Lino Pioli (Mabel King). Angelo worked on the Myra Canyon trestles with Alessio Guidi pouring the foundations for the trestles. They were proud Canadians and loved their new country. They loved living in Kelowna, spending time with the many Italian families that lived there.
Story contributed by Brenda M Shaw (Oliver)
Jack Butticci came to Canada in 1914 at age fifteen. He first worked on the Kettle Valley Railway and later on the S. S. Sicamous as a stoker and fireman. He also worked for the Occidental Fruit Company and Calona Wines. He concluded his working career by starting Kelowna Steel Fabricators. Jack married Lily Woods, sister to Elsie, who had married Gildo Orsi. Jack and Lilly had two children William (Faith Hubbard) and Alice (Fred Minchin).
In 1904, Domenico Mussato emigrated to Canada and operated a shoe repair shop in Phoenix. His wife, Anna Meyer, arrived in Canada, travelled by train with her five children, and joined him in 1905. When the Grandby Mine closed in 1919, Domenico deserted the family. With the help of Pasquale Capozzi, who had asked for the hand of eldest daughter Mary, Anna moved with her seven children to Kelowna. Anna opened a candy and ice-cream store on Bernard Avenue. In 1923, Anna left Kelowna with Marcella, Lizzie, Gina, Jasper “Joe” and Mickey and headed to Hollywood. Son Bert married Mary Zahn and daughter Gina married Giuseppe Ghezzi. In 1931 Giuseppe Ghezzi, along with Pete Casorso, May Casorso and John Maggiora, drew up the first agreement to buy equipment to form Calona Wines.
Silvio arrived in North America in 1912 travelling from his residence in Germany with friend Abramo Dal Col. In 1922 he married Rosa Ducharme who came to Kelowna from North Dakota. Silvio operated a shoe and harness repair shop that was eventually taken over by his nephew Renato Vaccaro (Renata Turri). Silvio and Rosa had four children: Silvia (Lukonsly), Maria, Beattrice (Nichols) and Ida (Blaley). Their home on Burtch Road was well known for its colourful display of portulaca that grew out to the road.
Carmine Rantucci first arrived in Canada with his father, Loreto, in 1910 when he was about twelve years old. They worked their way with the railway from Winnipeg to Revelstoke. Carmine returned to Italy for World War I. After the war he met and married Ida Ciancone. In 1921 he returned to Canada with friend Bernardino Santucci. Ida, and son Romolo (Evelyn Erisser), made the journey here in 1928. Children Moraldo (Carol Schneider), Zena (Jack Loretto) and Elmo (Emma Turri) were born later in Kelowna.
The story the Guidi families in Kelowna can be quite complicated. In the early 1900’s there were several Guidi families here. In later years some of them moved to the southern Okanagan. Records indicate Luigi Guidi, and his wife Ersilia Rossi, along with Luigi’s brother Silvio, arrived in 1906. The ship’s manifest indicates their Kelowna contact was Ersilia’s brother Joseph Rossi. Other Guidi arrivals here were: Ulissi 1908, Maria 1911, Amos, Angelo and Pietro 1912, Rodolfo and Clara - 1920 and Emilio and Laura in 1922.
Luigi and Ersilia had two children: Emilio (Dolinda Fussari) and Laura (Alessio Ciancone). Emilio and Dolinda had two children: Nita (Caesar Turri) and Louis (Rita).
In 1913 Palmizio Oreste Favali worked in the Virginia / North Carolina coal mines. Then he his way to Summerland to see his brother in law, Pietro Lenzi. He moved on to Kelowna where he had a small farm and worked for the Orsi / Guidi plaster and stucco busineses. He married Luigia Lenzi who came to Kelowna in 1929. Here they raised their five children: Frank (Elsie Comazzetto), Mike (Marjorie Thomson), Lawrence (Helen), and Marita (Ernesto Comazzetto). Son Roy died at a young age.