Franco (Frank) Spinelli
emigrated from San Pietro al
Tanagro near Naples in 1951. He was the son of a local
farmer but did not want to work on the land and chose to
emigrate to Canada and work in the Yukon Territory in the
silver mines. Two years later, he broke his back at
work and the company sent him to hospital in Edmonton where
he remained in traction for a year-and-a-half. After
healing, for a number of years he did casual labour.
In 1960, he married Rina Quagliarello, a hometown girl
chosen by his Mother. The marriage took place in Italy
by proxy and shortly thereafter she joined him in
Edmonton. In 1959,
he bought a small store with his
partner Remiro Zalunardo, on the corner of 95th Street and
108th Avenue and the rest is history. About 1964, he
took over the store and the Italian Centre Shop grew to a
wholesale empire that supplies stores and restaurants
throughout western Canada. His wife, daughter Teresa
and son, Pietro (who died tragically young shortly after his
32nd birthday in 1996) all worked in the store.
Frank is remembered with affection by the community as a
man generous with both his possessions and his time.
He was involved in setting up and supporting many of
Edmonton's Italian organizations and bringing Italian
entertainers to the City. While uninterested in
himself holding political office, he was the friend of many
politicians who were hosted at card games and cookouts on
his patio in his homes on 95th Street. Mrs. Spinelli has
also supported Italian societies such as the Ladies of the
Holy Rosario of the Santa Maria Goretti Parish.
Teresa Spinelli was born in October, 1961, and has, in
her own right, supported the Italian community.
Through her work in the Giovanni Caboto Society and many
inner-city organizations, she has supported community
development. She also assisted in the development of
the decorative signage and street furniture that
characterizes Edmonton's Little Italy in 2002. Teresa
married Michael Nimis in October, 1999.
The oral history interview with Mrs. Rina Spinelli and Mrs.
Teresa (Spinelli) Nimis was conducted as part of the Celebrating Edmonton's Italian
Community Oral History Project, funded by the Edmonton Community Lottery Board.
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