Mario, the eldest of seven children, was born in 1927 in Zero Branco, Treviso, Italy. Maria, the fourth of six children, was born in 1932, also in Zero Branco, Treviso, Italy.
Shortly after WWII, Mario began his professional career as a barber/stylist. He spent four years as an apprentice, in Treviso, Italy, and one year in Switzerland. In late 1954, the Canadian Consulate in Italy was looking for skilled barbers and other professionals to bring to Canada. As a result, the work for Mario’s Visa was fast tracked. He arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1955, travelling by train to Vancouver, BC, where the Government of Canada wanted him to work. He was asked to take the BC equivalency test for a barber but, at this point, Mario did not know how to read, speak, or write the English language, so he did a practical test showing his skill set. Mario was granted a “pink paper” that allowed for him to work under any licensed barber/stylist in BC.
Mario traveled to Kitimat, BC, finding work as a waiter for Alcan Aluminum. This job was temporary as he soon met an Italian barber, who allowed him to work during shifts off from Alcan. This opened the door to a permanent stay. In 1956, Mario returned to Italy and married Maria in February, 1957. They made their way to New York and travelled the long journey back to Kitimat. One year later, Kelowna welcomed Mario and Maria and their two young girls. Two sons were born in Kelowna during the next few years.
Mario started Mario’s Barbers, in the Capri Mall. He excelled in his trade but he also found other great barbers to surround himself. This led to lasting friendships and created a business that stood for decades, with clients attending from all over Canada. After selling to Luciano Zol, he retired. However, Mario returned to work with Mike Durante, a friend, lifelong barber and fellow Italian.
Maria was a working housewife and mother. She was a seamstress to many in Kelowna, altering/making dresses, pants, shirts, curtains or any other fabric that could be mended. She also did all the daily laundry for Mario’s Barber Shop.
Mario was a founding member and the first treasurer of the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club. He also served as president in 1969 and 1970. He loved playing and being a member of the Italian Bocce Club, both locally and provincially. He loved playing soccer and watching boxing, football, hockey and keeping up with news events. As a barber, he found he had to be well informed in all sorts of topics. He was a very active gardener, who got up at dawn before going to open the barbershop, and returning to his garden after dinner. His grapes, and the making, drinking and sharing of his wine were also an enjoyable part of his life.
Mario loved to go hunting and fishing with his boys, getting out with nature, leaving the ringing phones and busy city behind. This included going mushroom hunting with his dogs. He was a long time member and representative of the Kelowna & District Fish & Game Club.
Mario was a good swimmer. He swam across Okanagan Lake many times. He loved music and dancing. He had a very good singing voice that not many people knew about, nor got to hear. Mario passed away on May 22, 1998. As per his request, he was set free along a trail and a creek he visited often while hunting, fishing, and taking the dogs out for their runs. Mario loved Kelowna and will always be free and close by.
Maria Puppato and son, Walter
770 Lawrence Ave.