Giulio Menta was born in Supino, Frosinone in the Lazio region of Italy in 1906. He was the third of eight children of Domenico Menta and Maria Foggia. First to leave, in 1921, was the second brother, Cataldo Menta. He went to the United States and eventually settled in New Jersey where he married Matilda. They had three Children, Dennis, Lois, and Catherine.
In 1923, the eldest brother, 23 year old Antonio and 17 year old Giulio, left Italy bound for Vancouver. Antonio married Pietrina Cellini. Pietrina’s father, Luciano Cellini, was already living in Vancouver and was able to help the two young men establish themselves and find jobs mainly in the lumber camps on the coast of British Columbia. Antonio had two children: Eligio and Lina.
Meanwhile the war in Europe had a profound effect on the life of Giulio Menta. Italians, along with Germans and Japanese Residents of Canada were considered enemy aliens and, particularly those living in Canadian Coastal cities were considered a risk to Canadian Security. Therefore, in a particularly dark period of Canadian history, they were taken from their homes and put into internment camps. In 1940, Giulio was sent to one of these “camps”* in Kelowna. He fell in love with Kelowna and never returned to Vancouver except for special family events.
Giulio was alone in Kelowna, without family or friends and was fortunate to make friends with another young man, Mike Favali. The Favali family, generously took Giulio in until he was able to establish a home for himself. Giulio eventually started working at Calona Wines and was able to purchase a small house on Richter Street. He passed his time working at the winery, tending to a garden in his back yard and reading. He was an avid reader and especially loved geographical and historical works. His other pleasure was his nightly walk to Okanagan Lake for an evening swim.
In 1954 he returned to Italy for the first time. He met a young woman in Celano in the province of Abruzzo, named Giovanna Fellini. They were married and returned to Canada together. Giulio passed away in Kelowna in 2002 and Giovanna in 2018. Both are interred at Lakeview Memorial Gardens.
Grace Boni, grand daughter of Antonio Menta.
* Editorial Note: There wasn't an actual Italian Internment camp in Kelowna. The nearest camp was in the Kanaskis region of Alberta, close to Banff. However, there are anecdotal accounts of Italians being asked to move from the lower Mainland to the Interior to remove them from influences that were sympathetic to Mussolini. It is likely that Menta may have been one of these. There were a number of Italians from the Vancouver area that were sent to Internment camps in Kanaskis and, later, Petawawa, Ontario. For more about this, see our resource page from our presentation on this chapter of Canadian-Italian history last November: Between Neighbours.