The Kelowna Canadian Italian Club owes its existence to the twenty-one charter members and the twenty-four, first year members of our club. These 45 families are honoured on the Founders Plaques in the KCIC Hall. We are a proud club. Since its inception, in 1966, we have operated solely on volunteer participation. Many members have worked hard into their 80s. Our members are cooks, chefs, carpenters, artisans, orchardists, farmers, clerks, office workers and business owners. In our 56 years of existence, there have also been hundreds of others who have served in executive, director, committee and member roles. They have provided building maintenance, cooked dinners, organized galas, volunteered in the community, built and maintained bocce lanes, raised funds, balanced the books, built floats, taught cooking, language and dance classes, presented Lady of the Lake candidates, and phoned members.
There is one couple for which we would like to provide a special tribute…
Joe and Bianca Iafrancesco.
They may not been founding members, but for the past 50 years they were definitely builders of the club that we see today. On behalf of all the members of the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club, Thank you for all your work.
Giuseppe (Joe) Iafrancesco and Maria Bianca Russo
Giuseppe (Joe) Iafrancesco was born on March 19, 1947 in Sepino, Campobasso, Italy. He was the son of Pasquale Iafrancesco and Vittoria Iafrancesco (nee Ficocelli). He had twin siblings, brother Giovanni and sister Vitangela, born in 1937. Joe’s father, Pasquale, immigrated to Canada in 1949 and went to work for Canadian Pacific Railway in Field, B.C. Brother, Giovanni, immigrated in 1953 and sister, Vitangela, immigrated in 1957. Joe and his mother arrived by air at Montreal in 1963 and went on to Calgary, Alberta to join the family.
In 1967, Joe was employed by Canadian Pacific Railway, spending thirty years as a Conductor/Brakeman with both the running trades and VIA Rail. In 1976, he married his lifetime partner, Maria Bianca Russo (herein after referred to as Bianca), daughter of Amedeo and Armerinda Russo (nee Pucci) in Kelowna, B.C. Bianca was born in Cleto, Cosenza, Italy in 1952. She immigrated to Canada in 1957, landing at Ellis Island, NY, traveling north to Fort. Erie, Ontario and onto Kelowna. She has four sisters-Lucia, Florinda, Rita and Erminia and two brothers - Franco and Settimio. Bianca worked as an accountant/tax preparer throughout her career. She owned her own accounting practice for many years before selling it prior to retirement. She sat on Interior Savings Credit Union board for sixteen years. Throughout their years together, Joe and Bianca invested in and managed their commercial and residential properties. They also enjoyed their hobby orchard in Glenmore.
Joe loved his vintage cars, golfing and volunteering. An exemplary volunteer and very social person, Joe was well known in Kelowna for his dedication/commitment to community. Locally, he spent endless hours helping various community organizations, including the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club, Knights of Columbus, Columbus Holding Society, Rotary Club, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, Uptown Rutland Business Association, Downtown Kelowna Association, Central OK Crimestoppers, Folkfest, BC Summer Games and numerous charity fundraising events. Provincially and federally, he volunteered his time for the National Congress of Italian Canadians, the National Museum of Civilization (Ottawa) and the 2001 opening of Pier 21 (Halifax).
Joe’s passion was his Italian culture and the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club. He served as President for fifteen years, as well as other positions. He spent countless hours working to make sure that the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club survived, was in good financial status and that the Italian culture remained strong in Kelowna for future generations. Under his guidance, many projects and fundraisers were achieved, including the major renovation of the clubhouse in 2015, the 1st BC Provincial Convention in 1983 and the 1st Western Canadian Convention of BC Italian clubs/organizations (1984), the fundraisers for the Italian earthquake relief efforts, Variety Club Telethon fundraisers and numerous other fundraisers to help the community. Always at his side, Bianca served various positions with the Kelowna Canadian Italian Club as well.
Joe’s recognition awards were many and include the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), Kelowna’s Fred Macklin Man of the Year Award (2018), Finalist for Kelowna’s Fred Macklin Man of the Year (1989 and 2000) and Central OK Crimestoppers Volunteer of the Year Award (1998).
An optimist to the very end, Joe passed away from lung cancer on November 2, 2018. He touched many lives and will continue to do so through his very substantial donations to the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation and Kelowna’s Joanna’s House and through the time and help he gave to so many volunteer organizations and people. He is entombed at Lakeview Memorial Gardens Mausoleum in Kelowna, B.C.
Maria Bianca (Russo) Iafrancesco
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