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Crow's Nest Pass
Italian Pioneers

Italian Pioneers

Coal Branch
Italian Pioneers

Italian Pioneers

Anne (McMullen)
Belliveau describes
her memories of
growing up in

Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

Many of the following people are mentioned by Anne Belliveau as individuals she had interviewed:

  • Avoledo Family-Frank and Alice Avoledo were known as "Chickie" & "Babs," in keeping with Nordegger's habit of having nicknames for the large majority of residents. "Babs" was a nurse and worked at the Nordegg Hospital, while "Chickie" was a miner for Brazeau Collieries.
  • Basso Family-Pete (Pietro) was born in Fuime Veneto, Northern Italy on March 27th, 1905. He was the son of Antonio Basso and Giovanna Turcatel.  He had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. In February 1927 his sister, Mrs. Amalia (Basso) Contardo began the paper work to sponsor his immigration to Canada.  Amalia and Gildo Contardo had resided in Nordegg since 1925.  "Malia" and Gildo moved to Calgary after the mine closed and resided there until their deaths in 1970 and 1969, respectively.  In March of 1927 Pete left his town of St. Giorgio Della Richinvelda, Province of Udine, Northern Italy for Cherbourg, France and passage on the Cunard ship "S.S.Arabic" for Halifax, arriving in Canada on April 27, 1927, and in Nordegg in May.  He had obtained his carpentry certificate and training in France (Montetare), where he worked with his brother (Andrea) doing finishing carpentry work on railway passenger cars.  His first year in Nordegg had him working on the road from Rocky Mountain House to Nordegg for 25 cents a day.  He then secured a job in the mine and worked as a timber man and later as a miner.  He used his carpentry skills and did minor jobs for families in town.  A happy day in Pete's life was in October 1933 when he became a Canadian Citizen.  He loved the outdoors, fished and hunted in the Nordegg area.  His first love was his family; he enjoyed singing and was proud of his Italian heritage.  On October 10, 1942 he moved on from the life of a bachelor and married Barbara Sieben, (daughter of John Sieben and Monica Phillips).  The ceremony took place in St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Church, Nordegg performed by Father N.A. Mackenzie.  Barbara was born on the family farm in the district of Groswerder, Saskatchewan (near Macklin) on December 1, 1915.  After high school and working for local families, in 1931 she moved to Turner Valley, Alberta where she worked for the Shepards (Owners of Shepard's Garage).  In 1935 she moved to Calgary and took a six-month "Home Nursing & Home Economics" course at the "Lougheed House".  She worked for Dr. Bouk in Calgary and met Pete Basso at Mrs. Angela Rebaudengo's (the Italian Consul Corp.'s) house were she stayed.  In Nordegg she helped Fr. Mackenzie prepare children for their First Communion; many children did not know their prayers in English, so she taught them the required ceremony responses. On July 22, 1946 ,a tiny (2lbs. 5/8 oz.) child, Rino, was born.  He received his schooling in the Red Deer Separate School system, attended N.A.I.T. in Edmonton in the Architectural Technology Program.  He has been employed for the past 30 years by the Government of Alberta as Senior Preservation Advisor for the Department of Community Development, Heritage Resource Management Branch and resides in Calgary.  After the mine explosion Pete's heart was not in mining. He moved with his family to Red Deer in April of 1947.  There he worked with Horstrom Brothers Construction on the Alfa Dairies Plant and other projects until 1957, when he started Basso Construction and built custom homes.  He retired in 1970 and passed away in Red Deer at Easter on Holy Thursday, April 7th 1982.  Barbara still resides in the family home in Red Deer. 1

  • Jim Bifano-Vincenzo (Jim) Bifano emigrated to Canada on his own.  He was one of the earliest miners in the Nordegg area, working there in 1911, when the mines first were begun.   He and his wife, Eva, had three children, all born in Nordegg:  Irene (1920), Jim (1921), and Peter (1923).  In 1927 or 1928, the family relocated to Rossland B.C.  The youngest son, Pete, returned to Nordegg in 1942 to work for Brazeau Collieries.  He married Elsie Grabek.

  • Blasetti Brothers.  Photo courtesy of the family. Blasetti Family-Four Blasetti brothers left the Abruzzo region of Italy for Canada early in the 20th century: Andrea (Andrew); Francesco (Frank); Giovanino (John), who came before his other brothers; and Benedito, who returned to Italy to live. The other three brothers eventually all settled in Nordegg, where they raised their families. There now are 5th generation descendents of the Blasetti brothers, who left Italy in the very early years of the 20th century.

  • Giovanino and Elvira Blasetti- Giovanino (John) Blasetti left Italy in 1903, landing at Ellis Island, (New York) before going on to Fernie, B.C. Records show that, by 1914, he was working for Brazeau Collieries in the new town of Nordegg. In 1921, he returned to Antrodoco, Italy, where he and Elvira Blasetti were married. He made several trips to and from Italy, 									Passport of Giovanino Blasetti's wife and 2 oldest children.  Photo courtesy of the family. and two of their four children, Angelo and Anna, were born there. Angelo Thomas was born November 13, 1922, and Anna on May 7, 1924. In 1927, Giovanino sent for his family, and Elvira, Angelo, and Anna made the long journey through Ellis Island, arriving in Nordegg in July, 1927. Their third and fourth children were born in Nordegg: John, February 17, 1928; Chester, August 25, 1930. Giovanino continued to work in the mines for many years although he became quite ill with cancer. Giovanino died of his illness on October 20, 1941. Angelo, son of Giovanino, took over looking after the family when his father died. Giovanino's daughter, Anna, continued to live in Nordegg, where she worked in the boarding house and the bakery for Guido Blasetti. Anna went on to marry Melvin Ashmore on April 29, 1946 in Nordegg. Anna and Melvin had two children: Carol, born in Nordegg on February 22, 1948, and Linda, born in Calgary on October 14, 1950. In 1954, Anna and Melvin left Nordegg, settling in Calgary. After the death of their father, the two younger children, John and Chester, also continued to live in Nordegg. John worked at the Bighorn Store, where he became a manager. Chester worked in the mines. They both left Nordegg in 1954, to settle in Calgary.

  • Angelo and Norma (nee Smith) Blasetti-Angelo Blasetti, eldest child of Giovanino and Elvira Blasetti, was born in Antrodoco, Italy, on November 13, 1922. When Angelo's father, Giovanino, became ill with cancer, Angelo had to support the family by working in the same mines as his father. Angelo was able to complete grade 9 schooling in Nordegg and after taking correspondence classes he became a fireboss, then a pitboss. Angelo married Norma Smith on October 8, 1949. Norma was born on March 26, 1929, in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. Norma also completed her grade 9 at Nordegg and later worked in the mine offices. Angelo and Norma had the first of their seven children in Nordegg. Lorne was born on November 8, 1950, and Dennis was born on May 24, 1952. By 1952, they had settled in East Coulee, near Drumheller, Alberta, where Angelo continued to work in the mines. He eventually became the mine manager of the "Murray Mine". Angelo and Norma completed their family with the additions of David, born on April 21, 1954; Dina, born on May 12, 1957; Cheryl born on November 2, 1958; Ron, born on December 5, 1960; and Noreen, born on August 21, 1962. All were born at the Drumheller Hospital. Angelo had begun studying for his Mining Engineering degree when he passed away suddenly, on February 11, 1963. He is buried in Drumheller.

  • Francesco and Josephine (nee Poscente) Blasetti-Francesco (Frank) Blasetti emigrated  to Canada from Androdoco, Italy, and settled in Montreal.  He later returned to Androdoco.   His two brothers Andrea and Giovanni were living in Nordegg, so Frank later decided to relocate to Nordegg from Androdoco, around 1922.  Frank, a widower by this time, had a son, Mario, who had been born in 1918.  Frank married Josephine Poscente on August 7, 1930 and they, with Mario, came to Nordegg that same year.  (Josephine is not related to the Poscente family who also moved to Nordegg.)  In Nordegg, Frank Blasetti and his family first lived at 14 Martha Street and, later, moved to 28 Martha Street.   Frank was the town shoemaker and also worked in the mines.  The family moved to Calgary in 1955 when the mine closed down, and Frank continued to repair shoes.  Mario married Jenny Barbaro, and they have a daughter, Anna.   Mario also was left a widower and later married  Kay Cardamon.   There are 3 children of Mario and Kay: Frankie, Mario Jr., and Gloria.  Mario and Kay have now passed away. Frank and Josephine Blasetti had three daughters:  Paula was born in 1932, and is married to Wayne Hart.   They have four children, Ronald, Sandra, Stacey, and Tammy.  Mary, born in 1934, has three children, Martin, Manuel and Marcie.  The third daughter, Joanne, was born in 1947.    All three daughters live in Calgary.  Frank passed away on August 22, 1975 at the age of 82.  Frank's wife, Josephine, was always cooking and baking.  She made a type of candy at Christmas which was called "cobetta", and people flocked to the Blasetti house to have some of her candy.   She also made "biscotti" that everyone loved. She passed away on August 17, 1983, at 81 years.

  • Andrea and Bernardina (nee Serani) Blasetti- (submitted by Mafalda Blasetti)-Andrea (Andrew) Blasetti and Bernardina Serani were married in Antrodoco, Italy.  Almost a month later, Andrea emigrated to Canada, arriving at Ellis Island February 19, 1910.  Andrea had emigrated to work in the under-sea mines in Nova Scotia while Bernardina remained in Italy.  Andrea soon moved west, where he worked on the roads in Calgary, and at the Burns packing plant.   In 1912 he sent for Bernardina.  The Brazeau Collieries coal mines had opened up at Nordegg in 1911, and Andrea moved there.   Bernardina remained in Calgary, where their son, Guido, was born on September 14, 1913.  Mother and son remained in Calgary until June 1914, when Bernardina took off for Nordegg.  Guido was nine months old.  Andrea was a hard worker, digging coal, supplying wood, gardening during the summer months, hunting, and fishing to supply food for his family.  Andrew and Bernardina, who raised a family of six children, made Nordegg their home until the mine closed in 1955.

    Bernardina Blasetti- (submitted by Annette Gray)-A month after Bernardina Serani married Andrea (Andrew) Blasetti in Italy, her new husband left for Canada. Two years later, after working from coast to coast, Andrew sent for Bernardina to join him in Alberta in 1912.  Since Brazeau Colliers was opening up, Andrew left Bernardina once again, this time in Calgary, while he went to Nordegg to work in the mines, and in September, 1913, Bernardina gave birth to their first child, a son, Guido. Tired of being separated from her husband, Bernardina packed her bags, in June of 1914, and boarded a train for Nordegg. Thè trip was a difficult one. Cradling her baby in her arms, the nursing mother rode on the floor of a box car-the only woman among a carload of men going to work in the mines. When Bernardina arrived in Nordegg, she found her husband living in a bunkhouse with other men; there were no other women in Nordegg. She could not stay in the bunkhouse, so the three Blassetti's lived in a tent until their house was completed in the fall. Bernardina had five more children, all born in Nordegg: Ernest, Mary, Evo, Mafalda and Frank. Bernardina always had a large vegetable garden and was a very capable cook, especially when it came to cooking the wild game Andrew brought home. She also supplemented the family's diet with wild berries, dandelion greens and wild mushrooms and earned extra money by taking in laundry and selling homemade bread to bachelors.  Bernardina and Andrew were married sixty-one years. Forty-one of those years were spent in Nordegg where they lived until the mine closed in 1955. In that time, Bernardina saw two of her sons, Ernest and Frank, killed in tragic mine accidents. However, Guido, the baby who arrived in Nordegg in 1914, grew up to be a very successfùl entrepreneur, establishing one of the largest trucking firms in Canada, "The Big Horn Transport," which today hauls freight from Alaska to Mexico. With good reason, Bernardina was proud of all her children! 2

  • Guido & Julia (nee Poscente) Blasetti-  Wedding photo of Guido Blasetti and Julia Poscente, 1941.  Photo courtesy of the family. Guido was born in Calgary on September 14, 1913, to Andrea and Bernardina Blasetti. In the spring of 1914, baby Guido and his mother, Bernardina, arrived in Nordegg on the train, in a boxcar full of men looking for work at the Brazeau coal mines.  One man, Jim Rizzutti, spoke Italian and English, and he helped Bernardina.  Andrea, Bernardina, and Guido lived in a tent for several months before getting a house.  Guido grew up in Nordegg with his three brothers, Ernesto, Evo, and Frank, and two sisters Mary and Mafalda.  In 1919/1920, Guido began school in Nordegg.  From 1927 until 1931, Guido and his brother, Ernesto, went to the convent in Lac La Biche.  In 1932, Guido went to College St. Jean in Edmonton, then taught school in Lac La Biche for a short time, before returning to Nordegg.  After he returned to Nordegg, he became one of the "driving forces" behind having a catholic church constructed there.  By 1937/1938 Guido was 25 years old and dating a few of the Nordegg girls but a tiny, 4 foot 10 inches, 96 pound Italian girl caught his eye-Julia Poscente.   However, Julia's father, Filippo, was not in favour of Guido Guy Blasetti, Guido and Julia's son.  Photo courtesy of the family. courting his daughter.   So, on May 17, 1941, the two young people eloped to Edmonton, where they were married in St. Joseph's Cathedral.  Guido booked rooms for all the wedding party but the maid of honour, Maggie D'Amico (Morris), was away from home overnight for the first time and, being only 19 years old, she got scared.  She knocked on the door of Guido and Julia's room, where she spent the rest of the night with the honeymooners.  Guido and Julia had nine children:  Guy (Terry), May 4, 1942; Raymond, March 9, 1943; Frances (Joe Manna), April 28, 1945; Andrew (Connie Suto) December 8, 1946; Patricia (Steven Kiss), April 1, 1948; Laura (Bert Tysowski), October 7, 1949; Ernest (Bev) May 20, 1951; Philip (Linda), January 27, 1954; and Mark, October 16, 1957.  Early ventures of Guido and Julia:

     - managed the service station, Bighorn Motors, in Nordegg
     - managed the bake shop and restaurant
     - for a short time, leased the butcher shop and the boarding house
      - had a milk and grocery delivery with a horse and wagon, with Cyril Phillips and Vince Fitzsimmons
     - sold insurance policies and savings for Crown Life Insurance
     - sold mens suits in Nordegg for Lafleche Brothers' Men's Wear, Edmonton
     - sold cars, fridges, stoves, washing machines, dryers
     - ran a bus transportation service for the miners, for baseball, hockey, and curling
     teams, and the boy scouts

    Then, in 1946, Guido bought a 3-ton truck for $3,000.00, to haul coal for the mines.  But that didn't happen, so he got into hauling mail, groceries, and beer, etc. from Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer to Nordegg.  By 1947 Guido had settled on keeping the garage, bake shop and restaurant, and the bus and truck service.  The trucking outfit was named Big Horn Transport Ltd.  Julia ran the bake shop and restaurant, as well as the family, so she also was a very busy person.  As Nordegg started to slow down in the early 1950s, Guido made plans to move to Red Deer.  He kept Big Horn Transport Ltd, selling the other businesses in Nordegg by 1953.  Guido bought more trucks, and put them to work, contracting with the Chrysler plant in Red Deer, and other mail runs that he acquired. In 1957, Guido, Julia, and family, relocated Big Horn Transport to Calgary.  For many years, Guido ran the company by himself, handling all the mail and freight contracts.  In 1965, Andrew and Philip joined forces with their dad to help run Big Horn Transport.  By 1976, Guy, Raymond, and Ernie also had joined the business.  Guido gave his sons tremendous experience and background.  He always said money in the bank is no good, so he bought many trucks and trailers; the boys had no choice but to put them to work.  Before long, there were 300 trailers and 90 trucks, (and that number has almost doubled since that time).  It wasn't until 1984 that the youngest son, Mark, came on-stream.  Guido spread the boys out from Calgary's head office of Big Horn Transport Ltd., with Ernest and Mark managing the Edmonton branch, and Andrew managing Lethbridge branch and the U.S.A. account.  In 1990 Big Horn Transport Ltd. formed an office and yard in Regina.  The company operates in Western Canada and Western United States from Alaska to Texas.  Guido was an entrepreneur who saw his company grow along with his family and, with his wife, Julia, he saw it stretch beyond the 50 year mark, extending opportunities to the third generation.  In 1993, at age 81, Guido was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  On June 20, 2001, Guido passed away from pneumonia.

  • Jim Sr. and Jim Jr. Colosimo-No information.
  • Zupido D'Amico.  Photo courtesy of the D'Amico family. The D'Amico Family-The D'Amico family originated in Ortona area, Chieti, Italy. The eldest boy, Antonio (Tony), was the first to immigrate, settling in Fernie B.C. He gathered enough funds to bring the second eldest, Nicola (Nick). Both worked to bring Egidio (George), and all three brought Ciro (Charlie). The four boys then saved to bring over the rest of the family. Although all of them first settled in Fernie, they soon spread to other areas. George, who remained in Fernie for a time, married Maria Felicia Annibaldi, whose family had come to Fernie from Campobasso. When Johnny Shanks, a Mine Manager at Fernie, took the job of Brazeau Collieries Mine Manager at Nordegg, a number of the Fernie miners followed Shanks there, including George D'Amico. George and Maria D'Amico had five children: Elvira (Tom Pruett), Zupito (Metha Nielsen), Guido (Frances Black), Serena (Robert Duncan), and Michalina (Albert Morris). Guido and Zupito both went into mining at Nordegg. After WWII, Zupi attended the University of Alberta and became a Mining Engineer. He became part of Brazeau Collieries' Senior Management and, when Brazeau Collieries' Kananaskis Mine, in Mount Allan, was closed in 1952, Zupi was the Engineer in charge. He also closed the mines at Nordegg when they completely ceased operation, in June, 1955.  
  • Grosso, Clayton-No information. 
  • Lucarelli, Arturo-No information. 
  • Francesco Marasco-Francesco Marasco immigrated to Canada in approximately 1900.   Later, he sent sent for his son, also Francesco, who was still living in San Giovanni in Fiore, Cosenza, Italy.  In 1922, Francesco Antonio Marasco came to Nordegg.  In 1923, his wife Vittoria, and three children, Francesco III/Frank (Mafalda Blasetti), Caterina/Kay (Tony Mele), and Mario Salvatore/Milio (Magdelina Gejdos), all came from Italy to Nordegg.  In Nordegg, in 1925, Rosina/Rosie (Bill Skulsky) was born.  The family moved to Fernie in 1928 and, while they were there, Maria/Mary (Alfred Jones), was born.   They remained in Fernie only a few months before returning to Nordegg.
  • 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. Geno, son of Fillipo, is shown with the horse, Shorty, in front of the entrance to Number 2 Mine.  Photo courtesy of the family.
  • Poscente Family- Fillipo Poscente.  Photo courtesy of the family. The Poscente families came from Antrodoco, Italy.  Vincenzo Poscente immigrated to Canada first, going to Trail, B.C.  His family were:  Antonio, Ernesto (Ernie),  Julio (Jules), Dante, and Elinor.
         Later (1910), his cousin, Fillipo Poscente, and  wife Vittoria, Geno Poscente.  Photo courtesy of the family. immigrated 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.

  • Vecchio Family-The Vecchio family resided in Nordegg from 1914 to 1954, when they moved to Calgary.  Francesco G (Frank) Vecchio, was born in 1893 in Grimaldi, Cosenza in the Calabrese Region of Italy.  He emigrated to Fernie, B.C. in 1912 and then moved on to Nordegg, Alberta in 1914, where he worked in the mine until it closed.  Sarafina (Susie) Foresta, born in 1904 in San Giovanni, Infiore, Itay, arrived with her mother and siblings in Fernie in 1911.  In 1914 they moved to Nordegg, where she met and married Frank.  They had 8 children, all born in Nordegg.3


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