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     Edmonton:  Italian Pioneers

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Introduction

Early Years

 World War I and
Interwar Period

World War II
and After

  Cultural Life

Pioneers

 Population Statistics

 
Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

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  • Silvio Tona-Silvio was born in Villa di Tirano [province, Sondrio; region, Lombardia] on the 27th of June, 1900. Silvio was the second oldest of four brothers. His mother died in 1903 when he was just three years old. The first time Silvio heard about Canada was the 2nd of May, 1924. He had a relative who lived in Rimbey who operated a farm. He was told that he could have a job if he came over, so he went. He took the train with his cousin to Genoa, and then took a boat for 10 days to New York. Once he got to New York, he boarded a train to Calgary, and then to Rimbey. Silvio and his cousin moved to Nanaimo to work in the coal mines for 2 years. Then they moved back to Alberta to work in the mines. Silvio worked in the mines in Edson, Luscar, and Drumheller for 25 years. The first time he came to Edmonton was in the fall of 1936. He was able to make a better wage in the mines around Edmonton. In 1949 he quit working due to a lung condition called silicosis. He has spent his remaining years working as a handyman, and reading books at the library.
      
  • Luigi Tonsi-A market gardener, who sold vegetables in the City Market; Luigi had a little farm on North Saskatchewan near Fort Saskatchewan. He had a couple of greenhouses; he had two sons (Bert and Charlie) and a third adopted son. Mr. Tonsi had a farm in Lac La Biche but didn't like it there and settled in Edmonton. An Antonio Tonsi had a stall in the market and in April 1929, had F.E. Morony write to the Mayor asking for a better stall. He sold flowers and vegetables [Kathryn Chase Merrett, A History of the Edmonton City Market, 1900-2000].
      
  • Lina and Alessandro Urso being interviewed by Adriana Albi Davies and David Ridley for the Celebrating Edmonton's Oral History Project.  Photo by David Ridley, courtesy of the Heritage Community Foundation.Alessandro Urso-Alessandro Urso was born in Avola, Siracusa, Sicily on February 7th, 1944, and Lina (nee Annicchiarico) was born in Zungoli, Avellino, Campania, in March 9th, 1951. Alessandro came to Sherbrooke, Quebec in 1966 and, then moved to Edmonton in 1967. There, Alessandro trained as a chemical engineer and has worked in the area of environmental protection for the Government of Alberta, as well as the private-sector. Alessandro is a co-founder of Il Congresso newspaper.
      
  • Giovanni Battista Vecchio-Giovanni came from Italy in the early 1950s with his sons Serafino (Sam) and Fiore. He worked in construction and was joined in 1955 by wife Maria Teresa, sons Antonio (Tony) and Raffaele (Ralph), and daughter Rita.  [Rita married Rudy Cavaliere.  See the Cavaliere oral history.]
      
  • Mr. Fiore Vecchio pictured at the time of immigration.  Photo courtesy of Mr. VecchioFiore Vecchio-Mr. Vecchio was born in 1931 in Grimaldi, Province of Consenza in Italy, the son of Giovanni Battista and Maria Teresa (nee Amantea) Vecchio. He emigrated in 1950 to join his Father, who was working on a train gang based in Kamploops, B.C. He worked at this for only a month and then made his way to Vancouver where he earned a living by modeling plaster statuettes and playing his clarinet. Attended evening classes to acquire English and in 1952 moved to Edmonton where he obtained work as a carpenter. He established his first dance band in 1956 that also included his brother Silvano Vecchio on guitar (he was later to become a physician). Fiore arranged music for special occasions including weddings. Mr. Vecchio is a well-known Edmonton inventor, composer, and realtor. As Choirmaster of the Italian choir at the Santa Maria Goretti Parish, he has composed much choral music for special occasions including a sung Mass. In April, 1959, he married Giuseppina (Pina) Calabria and they continue to live in the house he bought in Edmonton's Little Italy.
      
  • Paul (Paolo) and Theresa Veltri-Paolo Veltri was born in 1902 in Grimaldi, Italy. He wanted to move to the United States in 1919 but his father told him no and would not help him. In 1929 he finally arrived in North America, only to be deported in 1933. Paolo immigrated to Canada for a second time in 1949, this time he ended up in Edmonton. His wife Theresa joined him in 1952 and they ran a boarding house for other Italians. Paul worked in north initially and then for the Great West Garment Company, as well as Canadian immigration. 
      
  • Venuto [first name unknown]-This individual worked at the MacDonald Hotel, and was killed by a tram.
      
  • Luigi Verruto-He was from Abruzzo, and operated a confectionery/billiards parlour/café/grocery and, because of his red hair, was called Capo Rosso [Redhead].
       
  • Liborio Vitale-He is retired.
      
  • Antonio and Maria Zuchett-They came to Edmonton before 1913 and lived in the Rossdale flats. Mrs. Zuchett worked for the Great West Garment Company.  Mr. Zuchett worked as a mason in the construction of the Alberta Legislature. 

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