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Crow's Nest Pass
Italian Pioneers

Italian Pioneers

Coal Branch
Italian Pioneers

Italian Pioneers

Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

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  • Giovanni (John) and Margaret Mary (nee Davidson) Marconi (Mucciarone)-John (1884-1964) was from Santa Angela Campobasso, Italy, and came to Canada c1903.  John MarconiHe arrived in Lille c1906 after working in construction in Montreal & on CPR work gangs.  There he worked at Lille mine, until the sight of a dead miner coming down the chute upset him so much he left to work at Lille Hotel.  There he met co-worker Margaret Mary Davidson from Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.  They married in 1911 and had one daughter, Catherine (Mrs. Makin of Hillcrest), and 3 sons, John T. "Jack" (b.1915, in 1939 married Anna Alampi who came to Canada from southern Italy in 1931, settled in Coleman, 2 children), Gordon "Toby" (b.1917, married Clare Dick in 1945, settled in Coleman, 4 children), and Francis (St. Catherines, Ontario).  John Sr. worked for International Mine from 1914 until retirement in 1954 when the mine closed.  Mary died in Coleman in 1959, Giovanni in 1964.

  • Andrew Mr. Mascherin and Maria Mascherin-Andrew was born 1883 in Cordenone, province of Udine, Italy.  He emigrated to Fort William with brother,  in 1905.  He layed track as far west as Hillcrest where he became a miner, just escaping the 1914 explosion.  Andrew worked at MacGillivray Coal Mine in Coleman before returning to Italy in 1922 where he met & married Maria.  They returned to the "Bushtown" area of Coleman; daughter Catherine born 1923 (married Joe Alampi in 1940, 2 daughters).  During strike of 1924 they returned to Italy where son Elidio was born, in 1926 (married Shirley Jean Dambois in 1952, 4 daughters).  Andrew returned to work in Coleman in 1928, and family joined him in 1937. They moved  to a house on second street (Italian Town).  Andrew died in 1950, Maria in 1974.

  • Biagio Mele-Biagio Mele came to Nordegg from San Giovanni in Fiore, Cosenza, Italy in 1921. In 1926 he went back to Italy, returning with his 11 year old son, Antonio/Tony (Kay Marasco). In the early 1950s, another son, Francesco, also came to Nordegg, meeting his brother, Tony, for the first time. 

  • Charles and Mary MontalbettiCharles and Mary Montalbetti-Charles arrived in Blairmore with his brother, Felix, at the turn of the 20th century.  Another brother and some cousins had previously come to work in Canada.  They worked in railroad and house construction.  Mary came from Italy to marry Charles in 1902, the first Coleman marriage. Their house was buried in the 1903 Frank Slide.  Son Andy was the first white boy born in Blairmore, and son Aldo was also born in Blairmore (married Racheal Molina in 1930, 2 children).  In 1907 the family returned to Italy, Charles went back to work in Blairmore, Christine was born in Italy. The entire family went back to Frank in 1912.  Aldo remembers bootlegging days with Uncle Jack Sartoris, riding along in his wagon pulled by horse, Garibaldi.

  • Giuseppe Joseph Nastasi and family. (Joseph) Nastasi-Giuseppe was born in 1879, in Reggio Calabria, Italy. He emigrated with brother Jim to Morrisey, B.C. in 1901, and moved to Coleman in 1902. He joined a CPR work gang; moved to Lille in 1903, and began mining.  There he met & married widow Eleanore DeLieu, who had emigrated from Lille, France, in 1904, and who had 2 daughters, Eva (born in Lille, France; married Joseph Nicifore, 3 children) and Georgina (born in Lille, Alberta; married William MacDonald, died 1938 leaving son & infant daughter who Mr. & Mrs. Nastasi raised ).  Joseph and Eleanore had 4 children all born in Passburg; Sebastian "Buster" (married Josephine Sterba, 2 children), Celene (married William Ford), Erma (married Sil Favero) and Leonard (married Margaret Dick). Mrs. Nastasi was a midwife.  Mr. Nastasi was a founding member of the Italian Society in Lille, 1906.  In 1910, Joseph, brother Jim and cousin Frank Pelle built & operated a bakery in Passburg until 1920.  Jim moved to Coleman to start his own bakery; Joseph opened a confectionary store and worked in the Passburg & Byron Creek mines, then in the West Canadian Collieries in Bellevue.

  • Filipponi - Nicifore Families-Nick Nicifore was born in 1888, in Camina, province of Reggio Calabria, Italy. He came to Frank, in 1904, and was met by brothers Pete & Ralph who arrived in Lille a few years before.  Ralph was a miner, and also a shoemaker with his own shop in Magrath.  Pete was married, and had a macaroni factory & bakery in Blairmore. He later moved to Creston, B.C.  Another brother, Frank, was killed in an accident when working for the CPR, left a son Joe in Italy.  Pete brought Joe to Canada; in the 1920s, Joe married Eva Nastasi, and raised a family in Blairmore. He died in 1950s.  Nick, a coal miner in Lille & Bellevue, and survivor of Bellevue mine disaster,  went overseas with Canadian Army in WWI. He married Assunta Filipponi of Blairmore, in 1919.
    Joseph Filipponi (d.1947) met & married Michelina (d.1923) in Rimini, Italy, where he patrolled the seashore.  They returned to Joseph's hometown of Vicco in Cosanza where they had 5 children.  Joseph came to Canada in search of work in 1907, and worked for "Pozzi" the contractor in Blairmore and for the CPR.  His family joined him during the war, in 1916 (only son died in Italy at age 12).  Daughter Katherina married Jim Arcuri, of Blairmore, and moved to Kelowna. Rosa married Antonio Ambossia; Barbara married Angelo Orlando; and Assunta, born 1903, married Nick Nicifore, Bellevue, 1919.
    Nick & Assunta Nicifore moved to Nordegg in 1919, where Mary (Mrs. Arthur Hales of Calgary) was born in 1920.  Nick worked for Bill Welsh in his coal mine in Hardley.  During 1922 the family returned to the Pass, and Nick worked for contractor Augustino Cachioni, and in coal mines.  Josephine (Mrs. Albert Bernardo of Blairmore) was born in 1922.  William "Bill"was  born in Blairmore in 1936, and married Jeanne Aebli in 1961. They had 3 daughters. Nick died in 1957, a year after his retirement.  Assunta remarried Andy Oliva.

  • Andy Oliva-Andy was born in Italy in 1890. He emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1892. His parents moved back to Italy, and Andy arrived in Coleman in 1906, worked in mine, and built Toppano's Grocery store. He returned for awhile to the States, and then operated an Italian Co-operative Store in Coleman. In 1917, Andy moved to Drumheller to manage co-op store, and in 1921 moved back to the Pass & was a businessman of the community.  He recalls horse racing events on a large track  where Crownest Pass swimming pool is now.

  • Giovanni and Giacomina (nee Del Net) Pagnucco-Giovanni "John" was born in 1881, in Arzene, northern Italy. He first came to Canada in 1904.  He returned to Italy to marry Giacomina Del Net in 1910.  She & son Ettore (b.1911, married Margaret Cerney in 1942, 4 children) joined John in Bellevue in 1913.  John worked for the CPR in Cranbrook and in the mines at Blairmore, Michel, Lille & Bellevue. He retired in 1952 from West Canadian Collieries in Bellevue.  Their two daughters born in Canada; Maria (died at 18 months) and Mary (married Frank Sickoff 1941, 2 children).  Mrs. Pagnucco died in 1953, John in 1964.

  • Pagnucco Families-Umberto, born 1891, arrived in Canada in 1907.  He worked on farms in Saskatchewan, cement plant in Blairmore, in Spokane, pulp & paper mill in Powell River, and in the mines when he moved back to Blairmore in 1916.  There he married Maria Battel in 1921. They had 3 children; Elda (b.1922, married Primo Filipuzzi, had 6 children), Angleo (b.1928, married Mary Fry, 4 children) and Anita (married Peter Morris, 3 daughters).  Umberto died in 1958.  He had two brothers in Canada as well, Graciozo and Angelo.
    Graciozo came to Canada in 1907, and returned to Italy in 1913 to serve in WWI, and to marry Gracia Zucclulin in 1922.  Graciozo returned to Canada in 1924, his wife & baby came in 1925.  They had 4 children in all; Dino (b.1923, married Gemma Petrina, one son, d.1969),  June (b.1931, married Sig Kreusel, 3 sons).
    Angelo arrived in Canada in 1909, and married Vincenza De Stefano in 1916 in Bellevue.  She had arrived in Canada in 1915.  Angelo was elected to council in Blairmore, 1936.  They had 2 children, Mario (b.1917, married Ada Vendrasco, 3 children, d.1957) and Matilda (b.1918, married Ken Wheeler of Sydney, Australia, 2 children).

  • Pavan Brothers.Pavan Families-Arturo (Arthur) Pavan was born in 1881 in Arzene, Italy, and came to Canada in 1908 to join his older brother Luigi (Louis) who had come to Michel, B.C. in 1906.  Arthur had married Giuditta (Judith) Maniago (b.1884), also from Arzene, in 1906, and daughter Lea was born there in 1908.  In 1910, two younger brothers Giovanni (Nanni) & Germano joined Luigi & Arthur.  Luigi returned to Italy in 1910 and was killed in action during WWI.  Nanni & Germano worked at the cement plant in Blairmore; Arthur for West Canadian Collieries in Bellevue.  In 1912 Arthur sent for his wife and daughter who, because of overcrowding, had to reschedule their Titanic booking.  Mr. and Mrs. Pavan, Madeline and Lea.They arrived safely and in 1914 moved to Bellevue, where Nanni & Germano (who now worked for West Canadian Collieries) lived with them.  Arthur & Judith's second child, Madeline, was born in Bellevue.  Lea married Louis Ziraldo in 1935, moved to Edmonton, and had 2 daughters.  Madeline married Francis Roach, from Calgary, and had 3 children.  Arthur died in Bellevue in 1947, Judith in Edmonton, 1970. Nanni married Yolanda Cossarini of Michel in 1923, and moved to Detroit, Michigan, where they had 2 daughters.  Germano moved to Los Angeles, California in 1925,  died a bachelor in 1957.  The fifth and youngest brother, Giacomo (Jack) arrived in Bellevue in 1927, and also worked for West Canadian Collieries.  He married Rosina De Zorzi in 1929.  She had come from Italy in 1927.  They had 2 children, Erasmo & Velia.  Jack died in Bellevue, 1950. Memorable moments were New Year's Eve parties when David Avoledo, a great friend of Arthur's, would usher in the New Year with his pistol.

  • Peressini Families- 5 boys were born to Andrea and Lodovica (nee Pistor) Peressini in Valvasone, province of Udine, Italy.  Andrea & his sons worked the coal mines in the Pass as early as 1905.  Andrea returned to Italy, but the brothers settled in Blairmore to work for the West Canadian Collieries.

    • Augusto, born 1878, came to Blairmore in 1905, returned to Italy to L to R: Vicki, Delki, Americo, Romano, Tony Peressini. Andrea in back. serve in WWI and marry Olivia Nocente.  They had 5 children, Lodovica "Vicki" (b.1913 in Valvasone, married William Jallep in 1936, had 2 daughters), Tony (b.1914, d.1938), Delki (b.1916, married Mary Rhodes 1946, 4 sons), Romano (served in WWII, married Edna McLeod in 1955, one daughter, Edmonton), and Americo (served in WWII, resides in Vancouver).  Augusto died in 1955, Olivia in 1952.

    • Doro PeressiniDiodore (Doro), (1881-1662) came to Blairmore in 1905.  Served in WWI in Italy where he married Marie Leschuitta.  Daughter Lodovica (b.1917, d.1933 in Italy), son Angelo (b.1920) came to Blairmore 1938.  He served in Royal Canadian Navy in WWII, married Mary Napora in 1955, moved to Detroit.

    • Romano Sassone, (1890-1967) came to Canada in 1906, worked in Hosmer & Lille.  Returned in 1915 to serve in Italian Army, became POW in Germany; 1920 married Maria Oliva Bortolussi (b.1900 in Romano Peressini FamilyArzene, province of Udine, to a family of 12 children, d.1959). Romano returned to Blairmore to work for CPR and West Canadian Collieries.  Maria arrived in 1922 with daughter Rina Marie (b.1920 in Arzene, married 1944 to John Krankowsky).  Beatrice was born in Powell River, B.C. in 1926 (married in 1946 to John Hammer, 2 sons), when Romano worked there in the pulp & paper mill.  Returned to Blairmore where son Romano Jr. was born, 1934 (married in 1952 to Pearl Brooks, 5 children).  Romano Sr. served on Blairmore Town Council for 25 years, was member of Italian Society of Coleman.

    • Jack PeressiniGiacomo (Jack), (1895-1941), came to Blairmore 1909. Served in WWI in Italy where he married Teresa Avoledo; returned to Blairmore 1921 with their son Eliseo (b.1920 in Valvasone).  Daughter Odessa (b.1922, Mrs. Berto Bernardo, Natal) and son Albeo "Nini" (b.1924, served overseas in Canadian Army WWII,  married Chris Bubniak in 1948, 3 daughters) were both born in Blairmore.  Jack died in a coal mine accident.

    • Erminio, born 1898, came to Blairmore in 1921 and there married Louiga Bortolussi in 1927.  Erminio PeressiniServed in Italian Army in WWI.  Had 5 children all born in Blairmore; Louis (b.1928, married Peggy Myra in 1952, 3 children, Victoria), Timothy (1935-1968), Wilfred (b.1937), Lillian (b.1942, married Kenneth Radley in 1964, one son, Ottawa), and Stanley (b.1944, married Barbara Mervo, one son, Calgary).  Louiga passed away in 1968.

  • John and Teresa Petrini-They were both born in Loria, Italy in 1885 & 1897 respectively.  John came to Trail, B.C. in 1911, and returned to Italy in 1914, and came back to Canada again in 1923.  Son Luigi (Bellevue) and daughter Gemma (Calgary) were born in Italy & with Mrs. Petrini in 1926 came to Bellevue, where 2 more children, Armenia (Detroit) & Mary (d.1974), were born.  John worked as blacksmith for West Canadian Collieries & independently.  He died in 1951, his wife in 1972.

    Picariello family.  Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives.  NA-1136-1.

  • Emilio Picariello-Emilio was born November 27, 1879 in Capriglia, Avellino, Italy,  and emigrated to Canada c1900. He arrived first in Toronto where he worked as an electrician.  Here he met and married Marianino (Marian), just over from Italy.  They operated a confectionery store and began raising a family of 7 children.  The family moved to Fernie, B.C. in 1911, where Emilio worked in Mr. G. Maraniro's Macaroni Factory. He had good business acumen, and was involved in many enterprises in his lifetime. He also loved gambling.  Earned the nickname "E. Pick, the Bottle King" or "Emperor Pic" by collecting empty bottles.  Emilio bought the Alberta Hotel in Blairmore in 1918, where he moved his family and was a member of Town Council. He became sole agent for Sick's Lethbridge Brewery, and when total prohibition came on April 1, 1918, started a thriving bootlegging business.  An incident in 1921 in which "Pic" was involved resulted in the shooting death of an Alberta Provincial Police Constable named Steve Lawson.  After a lengthy trial, Emilio Picariello and accomplice Florence Lassandra were executed by hanging at Fort Saskatchewan Jail in 1923.  Many people in the Pass spoke of Picariello's "kindly nature and generous treatment toward the poor people of Fernie...and Blairmore." 

  • The Poscente Family-The Poscente families came from Antrodoco, Italy. Vincenzo Poscente emigrated to Canada first, going to Trail, B.C. He was twice married, first to Maria and second to Sofia.   Antonio Poscente was the child of his first marriage to Maria.  Vincenzo and Sofia returned to Canada with Antonio and son Dante.  The other children, Ernesto (Ernie), Julio (Jules) and Elinor, were born in Trail. 

    Later (1910), his cousin, Fillipo Poscente, and wife Vittoria, emigrated to Calgary. In 1921 this family moved to Nordegg. The children of Fillipo and Vittoria were Pierena, Julia, and Geno. Geno went to work at Brazeau Collieries (Nordegg) in 1937. He married Kazimiera Grabek and they had one son, and three daughters. Julia married Guido Blasetti in 1941, and they had nine children. 

  • Flaminio (Emil) and Giovanna Pozzi- Emil, a mine blacksmith, arrived in Frank in 1906 from northern Italy (d.1975), followed by bride to be in 1910 (d.1976).  They settled in Bellevue 1918, and had 2 sons, Dante (Calgary) & Joe (b.1924, Cochrane).

  • Angelo and Carlotta (nee Bianchi) Pozzi- Angelo was born 1876 in Milano, Italy. In 1903 he came to Crowsnest, and worked for CPR, then to the mine in Frank after the slide, and retired from Hillcrest-Mohawk mine at age 70. He died in 1956.  He brought his wife (also born in Milano) out in 1906. She was a nurse.  They had lost their first child, a son, in Italy. She died in 1943 leaving 4 children; Angelica (b.1907, married Carl Gahn, widowed, remarried A. Reimier, Kelowna), Frank (b.1908, married Edna Neilson, Lethbridge, d.1978), Alma (b.1909, hairdresser, Frank), and Angela "Ann" (b.1910, married George Foxcroft - airman from England, settled in Toronto).

  • Enrico Joseph (E.J.) and Stella Matilda (nee Vanoni) Pozzi-Enrico was born in Italy in 1878. He worked in coke oven construction, and came to Frank in 1905, followed by bride to be in 1906.  They lived at rear of A.I. Blais' Store before moving to Blairmore in 1914.  Enrico operated a construction business and lumber yard (employing upwards of 200 men at one point) until his death in 1930.  They had 4 children; Benvenuta (school teacher, married Al Fabro, Kimberley, one son), Louis (family construction business, married  Lillian Knapman in 1939, joined RCAF, came out of retirement to assist with construction of new Calgary Air Terminal in 1974), Anna (b.1912 while family visiting in Italy, remained until 1920; married Cyrus Fabro, Blairmore) and Joe (b.1914 in Blairmore, worked at Mohawk Mines, joined RCAF, Crowsnest Pass School Board, married Jean Youngberg, one daughter).  Stella died in 1970.

  • Luigi and Enrichetta (nee Montonati) Pozzi-Luigi arrived in Frank inMr. and Mrs. Luigi Pozzi 1912 from Menzago, province of Varese, Italy, and was followed by bride to be in 1920.  He was boiler fireman at mines in Frank, Lille and Beaver Mine Coal Operations.  He then worked in construction for E.J. Pozzi, before working for Hillcrest & Bellevue Collieries.  Enrichetta renowned for her cooking & recipes.  Had two children, son Veno & daughter Eride.

  • Quintilio Quintilio Family Family-John Quintillo & his family lived in Coleman and Lille c1900.  When he returned to Italy, his children stayed to live in the Pass.  Daughter Antoinette married George Canatolini, and moved to Medicine Hat.  Masimino, charter member of the Italian Society in 1906, lost his life in the Bellevue mine 1910.  Jim, miner, died in 1947.  Albert, mined, and operated Bellevue Pool Hall. He died in 1967.  
    Joe, born in 1894 in Navelli, Italy, was a butcher in Lille, Fernie and Coal Creek, B.C., where he met & married Helen Caldwell.  He managed Red & White Store in Bellevue, and worked as a butcher in Pincher Creek. He died in 1962.  Had 4 sons; John (John's Poolroom, Bellevue), Dan (vice-principal, Bellevue; married Nora Spooner, 4 children), Joe Jr. (school principal, Bellevue; married Maureen McLellan, one son), and Hugh (engineer, Calgary; married Betty Plante, 2 children).

  • Pietro (Pete) and Dozalina (nee Fuscharini) Rinaldi-Pete came to the mines in Michel, B.C., in 1908,  followed by bride to be in 1910.  They moved to Hillcrest in 1912, where an injury to Pete's leg the day before the Hillcrest disaster saved his life.  They purchased a farm in Burmis area 1918 and worked for CPR.  Together they had 7 children; Sylvia (b.1911, married Joe Manarin, Kelowna, 5 children), Lillian (b.1914, married Louis Huesdens, Kimberley, 2 sons), Ann (b.1914, married Peter Bozzer, Kimberley, 7 children), Mary (b.1915, married Ezra Ironmonger, Trail, one daughter), Reno (b.1916, married Adrienne Veraart Capron, Bellevue), Olympia (b.1918, married Albert Gatto, Bellevue, 2 children), and Fred (b.1919, married Amelia Filipuzzi who died in 1965, Bellevue, 2 sons, remarried Bernetta Crow).  In 1945, Pete & Dozalina left the farm to Reno & Fred, retired to Kelowna.  Mrs. Rinaldi died in 1954, Mr. Rinaldi in 1958.

  • Rizzo Family-Peter Rizzo left his family & Italy at the age of 16 to join his brother-in-law in the States.  He found himself working for Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in B.C. and later in the mines at Coleman - where he coincidentally met up with friends from Italy!  Peter became a member of the Italian Society, married Genevieve Alampi (who joined the Ladies Italian Society "Società Stella D'Italia"); had 2 children, Titina of Rocky Mountain House, and Lewis Peter of Calgary.  He remembers Coleman as a thriving community with many businesses, 2 theatres (Grand & Palace), and 4 halls (Opera House built by the miners, Italian Hall, K.P. Hall and Oddfellow's Hall).

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