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     Venice Hylo:  Italian Pioneers

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The Venice-Hylo district was home to many Italians who had traveled to western Canada in search of a better life.  Thankfully, the Hylo-Venice History Book Committee has recognized the importance of preserving many of the histories of these families, and have compiled a series of family histories that they have published in the book Hylo-Venice Harvest of Memories. The book provides the most comprehensive information on Italian settlement in Alberta.  These brief overviews of those family histories are only preliminary and more research needs to be done with employment records as well as oral history interviews:

  • Olivo John and Anne Biollo-Mr. & Mrs. O.J. Biollo Olivo John (O.J.) Biollo was born in the town of Padua, in the province of Venice, Italy, on May 27, 1883. Mr. Biollo emigrated to Canada in 1902 at the age of 19, as a prospective employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Biollo - Doyle Album Anne was born Annie D'Mitruzinski, on July 5, 1891 in Czerwonograd, Poland.  She emigrated to Canada with her family in 1899.  On September 10, 1907 they were married in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  After working off his commitment to the railway, he moved to Winnipeg and went into a partnership to acquire the Savoy Hotel.  Two years later the O. J. Biollo family moved to Rivers, Manitoba.  In 1911 they moved to Edmonton.  Mr. Biollo owned and operated a store and movie theatre, as well as serving as president The Italian Society while in Edmonton.  Along with other members of the Society, Mr. Biollo left in 1914 for the Venice area.  He homesteaded the NW¼  12-66-15-W4, which was partially surrounded by Lake Missawawi.  Mr. Biollo purchased a small store that served as a depot that supplied the logging camps in the area.  Mrs. Biollo was very busy on the new homestead gardening, making butter, cheese, ice fishing, preserving meat, mending and making clothes, and serving as a midwife for other women in the community. The expansion of the O. J. Biollo family.  Photo courtesy of the Bonifacio family. Over the years Mr. Biollo ran businesses, served as postmaster, worked on road crews, and was even interned by the government during WW ll. Together Olivo and Anne had 10 children (Valentina, Florence, Mike, Mary, Arthur, Fidelia, David, Valentino, Gloria, and chosen son Gilbert). 
    Oliver Michael Biollo
    was born in Edmonton in 1911 and worked with his Father on the farm breaking land, threshing around the district and helping his Father in the store, grain elevator and sawmill. Descendants of Mr. &  Mrs. Biollo. He also worked on road building.  He married Gisella Michetti in 1934 and began to work for the Northern Alberta Railways where he worked for 22 years, 20 as a section foreman.  The couple had seven children:  Victor, Aileen, Oliver Jr., Caroline, Christopher, Leslie and David. 
    Arthur Biollo
    was born in Edmonton in 1918 and worked on the family farm as well as helping other farmers in the area.  In 1939, he enlisted in the Army.  In 1945 he married Eleanor St. Jean and they operated a sawmill in Venice.  They also farmed.  They had seven children:  Delores, Valerie, Brian, Debra, Randolph, Collin and Darryl.1

  • Pio and Lucia (nee Macor) Bonifacio-Pio and Lucia Bonifacio, 1952.  Photo courtesy of the Bonifacio family.Pio Bonifacio was born in Toffia, Italy, 1886; Lucia also born in Toffia, 1889.  Married in spring, 1911.  Pio left for America in the fall of 1911with a friend, Pangrazio (Pete) Rauco.  They landed in Boston, Massachusetts and made their way west, working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and Kansas.  Then they moved on to Winnipeg and Edmonton where they worked on railroad construction.  Lucia joined Pio and stayed for a time with the O.J. Biollo family while Pio was working on the railroad. In 1914 Pio joined a group of men from Edmonton who had decided to start an Italian Colony in northern Alberta.  This group included Felice De Angelis (civil engineer), Beniamino Maragno, Antonio Piemonte and son, Teofilo.  They left Edmonton on July 27, 1914.  Pio built his family home on NE1/4 1-66-15-W4.  Pio worked as a logger and was joined by Lucia at Venice in 1915. Joe and Tony Bonifacio. c.1922.  Photo courtesy of the Bonifacio family. He then ran the farm with the help of his sons.  In 1942, Pio and his son Quinto, together with Peter Rossi and Frank Ferro cut cord wood for the Northern Transportation along the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories.  In 1947 Pio and Lucia retired to Edmonton where, for a time, he worked in the Misericordia Hospital in the kitchen.  He then worked for a crew that was cutting trees in the Redwater-Egremont area for the construction of Highway 28.  In 1958, he was one of the founders of the Santa Maria Goretti Parish in Edmonton.  The couple had five children (Tony, Joe, John, Quinto and Bernice).2

  • Anthony P. (Tony) and Rina (Macor) Bonifacio-Tony Bonifacio and Son, 1950s.Tony Bonifacio married Rina Macor in 1949Tony Bonifacio was born in June 1917, the first of the five children of Pio and Lucia Bonifacio and said to the first child born in Venice.  He was sent to the Lac La Biche Mission at the age of seven and had to learn French.  In 1926, when the Venice School was established, he transfered there and learned English.  He completed grade 8 and then worked on the farm. Tony Bonifacio In 1935, he went to work for the Northern Alberta Railways as a section man at Mile 199, north of Lac La Biche.  Anthony BonifacioHe worked on the railroad until 1940 when he returned to work on the farm because his two brothers, Joe and John, were serving in the army.  In 1948, Tony moved to Edmonton and, in spring 1949, worked on the construction of the Imperial Oil Refinery.  Tony Bonifacio and Warner WoodHe worked there for 31 years retiring at age 64.  In 1949, he married Rina Macor and had three sons (Robert, Leonard and Terry).  In 1997, Tony Bonifacio compiled a history of the Venice settlement Venice Alberta 1914:  The Pioneers and Others That Lived There, drawing on the diary of the consular agent Felice De Angelis as well as his personal memories and those of other Italian immigrants.  

  • Joe and Antoinette (Nini) Bonifacio-Joe BonifacioJoe Bonifacio at Rizzoli tie campJoe Joe and Antoinette Bonifaciodid farm work and in the winter worked on tie camps, which involved cutting and limbing trees for railroad ties. In 1942, he was conscripted to the Army and was discharged in 1946.  He returned to Lac La Biche and worked on the farm as well as the building of the airport.  Lois Beizile and Joann Bonifacio Wedding.  Joann is the daughter of Joe and Nini Bonifacio.He married Antoinette (Nini) Maccagno, youngest daughter of Tomaso and Giovanna Maccagno in 1947 and they had three children (Joann, Kenneth and Catherine).  In fall 1947, they bought the family farm. 

  • John and Florence Bonifacio-John served in the army in WWII and then worked with Edmonton Transit driving streetcars.  He and his wife Florence had six children (Patricia, Larry, Connie, Daryl, Debbie and Randy).

  • Quinto Bonifacio worked in construction of gas plants in the oilfields and refineries and was instrumental in the construction of Suncor in Fort McMurray.  

  • Bernice Bonifacio moved to Edmonton and married Walter Sams and had six children (Walter, John, Gale, Marlene, Glan and Valerie) . 

    Bonifacio FarmBonifacio WomenLucia BonifacioMusical TrioJoe and Anthony Bonifacio and Nick D'Onofrio
    The MusiciansPio BonifacioPio BonifacioPio Bonifacio and SonsTony and Rina Bonifacio in Kelowna

  • Benedetto and Maria Coli-The family came to Canada from Fermignano, Italy, which is a small town in the province of Pesaro.Mr & Mrs. Berendetto Coli Benedetto served his country in World War I for four years, spending 12-14 months in a German Concentration camp. After the war, he married Maria Rossi and started a family while working for the landlord.  Benedetto's dream was to emigrate to Canada, and after six years an uncle in Canada said that he would sponsor the family (c1926).  Benedetto, his wife, and their three children (Augustina, Johnny, and Lena) boarded a boat in Cherbourg, France and sailed to Quebec. John Coli and friends standing in front of Peter Rossi's car. They boarded a train and headed west to Hylo.  Maria and the children worked on the homestead while Benedetto found work on the railroad, and at logging and tie camps.  Another baby boy was born to the family in 1930.  His name was Hugo.  At this time Benedetto became very sick, and the family was almost deported because they could not pay their hospital bill.  Later, Benedetto and Maria worked as the school's janitors to help pay for the taxes on the homestead.  Benedetto and Maria lived on the farm, farming with their son Johnny, until Benedetto's death in January 1955.  In 1963, the homestead was sold to Ray Meardi, and Maria moved to Athabasca with her daughter Lena to operate the Hillside Motel. In 1970, they sold the hotel and moved to Edmonton. Maria passed away in 1983. 3


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