Giovanni Petretta was born on February 4, 1921 in Santo Stefano Del Sol, Avellino, Campania. Gina Prioreschi was born March 19, 1920 in Bardalone, San Marcello, Pistoia, Toscana. They met while Giovanni was stationed in the Bardalone area, as a military policeman. They wed in 1946 and lived in S Stefano, Giovanni’s family home. But life after the war was hard, in a depressed economy with little opportunity. When there was a chance to go to Canada, they took it.
Giovanni arrived in Kelowna, BC, via Halifax in February, 1950. Like many post-war immigrants, Giovanni was sponsored by a relative, his uncle, Pasquale (Cap) Capozzi. He lived at the Capozzi home while working at Capozzi’s Grocery Store. Although Gina was to immigrate the following year, the Capozzi’s need for household help expedited her departure. Gina and son, Giuseppe (Joe), age three, departed from Italy in November 1950.
Upon arrival in Kelowna, the family settled at the Capozzi’s, before moving to a small home on Water Street, where Rita was born in 1952. They later moved into a suite at the Cacchioni house on Bernard Avenue. During these few years, Giovanni was employed at Sun-Rype and then Calona Wines while Gina worked at the cannery and cleaned homes. To earn extra money, they also worked on their days off at various farms, mostly harvesting fruit.
In 1953, an abandoned vineyard and house in the Bankhead area became available. They were encouraged by August Cacchioni and Cap Capozzi to buy the property. Giovanni remained employed at the winery for a few years, but both worked the vineyard and a few acres of “Italian” vegetables that they sold throughout BC and Alberta. They also took in Italian lodgers, including Giovanni’s brother, Domenico, who arrived in 1954. In 1958 their third child, Maria Pia made her appearance. In the coming years, they expanded their holdings with a small apple orchard in Glenmore, and later, another vineyard and orchard in the Ellison area.
Giovanni, a proud farmer, along with his biggest asset, Gina, and their son, Joe, laboured in the fields sometimes late into the evening. After supper Gina would make bread and do canning late into the night. Joe started helping on the farm when he was just seven and is now still lives on the farm.
Unexpectedly, Giovanni died in 1982, leaving Gina and Joe to oversee the farm properties. Giovanni had overseen most of the farms’ managerial responsibilities. Running the farm fell on Joe’s shoulders with his young family’s support and Gina’s immeasurable knowledge and assistance. Gina continued to work very hard helping on the farms with whatever needed to be done. She lived, independently, on the original farm, until 1996. In 2018, she passed away peacefully at the age of 98. Gina and Giovanni are interred at the Kelowna Memorial Cemetery. Giovanni was a charter member of the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club.
NOTE: Giovanni’s father, Giuseppe, came to North America twice in the early 1900’s. He worked in coal mines in Pennsylvania and in the mining industry in the West Kootenay Area.
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