Joseph Ghezzi (Cleto Candido Desiderato Patrizio Brena)
Joseph Ghezzi, the twelfth child of Camillo Brena, was born in 1867 in the Veneto region of Italy. Unlike his father, Joseph had a restless spirit and went from one venture to another. In 1887 he joined the military and took part in the African campaign. Once there he constructed a mill and opened a transport agency. After a brief return to Italy in 1891, he headed to Tunis, Africa, where he worked on the railway. He also founded the Italian language newspaper, Corriere di Tunisi.
Joseph returned to Italy in 1892 and married Linda Gobbi of Milan. He obtained the franchise for Benz automobiles in Italy. Later he dabbled in various agricultural projects and finally settled in San Bonifacio, Veneto, where he raised a family of five - Clorinda, Cesare, Carlo, Clara and Camilla. He built a silk tie factory, using silk worms in the production of silk. He also became Mayor of San Bonifacio.
In 1912 he left Italy, arriving in Halifax, and then on to Manitoba, where he changed his name from Cleto Brenna to Giuseppe Ghezzi. In the Winnipeg area, he continued with his entrepreneurial and promotional ideas. Sons, Carlo arrived in 1921 and Cesare in 1924. Daughters, Clara and Camilla arrived in 1925. Clorinda remained in Italy. Joseph’s wife, Linda, passed away in Italy in 1922. In 1925, the North Italy Farmers’ Colonies, at Loette and Alonso (Manitoba), was incorporated with Joseph as the manager.
The first record of Ghezzi in British Columbia was in 1931. He had brought with him, samples of wine and cider, made at an experimental plant in Italy, from BC Fruits. In 1932, the Domestic Winery and By-products Ltd plant was opened in Kelowna. Originally, cull apples were used to make the wine but later, they were blended with concord grapes. That same year, an Italian professor brought machinery from Italy and collaborated with Joseph in the making of champagnes and sparkling wines.
By 1933, son Carlo was working as wine maker with Joseph and a staff of twelve. Wine production turned from apples to grapes under the new name of Calona Wines Limited. Twenty-five different wines were being produced, including St. John Sacramental wine and Calona Red. Eventually, Joseph moved on to Yakima and then to Morgan Hill, California, where he continued with his wine-making enterprises. In 1939, he returned to Italy to spend his last years with his daughter, Clorinda in San Bonifacio. He died in 1943 at seventy-six years of age.
Story condensed by D E Rampone from a story in the 71st report of the Okanagan Historical Society, 2007 by granddaughter Linda Ben-Hamida.