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     Edmonton:  Italian Pioneers

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Early Years

 World War I and
Interwar Period

World War II
and After

  Cultural Life


 Population Statistics

Year of the Coal Miner September 2003 - 2004

by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D.

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  • James (Jimmy) Anselmo-A contractor, who before W.W. II, had partnered with Fedele (Felix) Nigro, who had a farm and raised horses. Anselmo got small contracts from the government to fix roads and Mr. Nigro provided the horses. When the war broke out and the Americans built the Alaska highway, they left the machinery behind and the partners were able to get some of it and went into the road building business.

  • Francesco (Frank) Azzano-Frank came to Edmonton in 1913/14, at age 15, from Udine, Italy. He was a baker by trade, but worked laying railroad tracks (Spruce Grove and Dunvegan Line). Frank also farmed in Vegreville from 1929 to 1943, and then returned to Edmonton to work for the North Western Brewery. Frank finally did a stint as a baker with workmen building the Alaska Highway.

  • Lorenzo Bagnariol-came to Canada in 1951, leaving his wife Assunta behind, and worked in the North in construction and also as a taxi driver.  He returned to visit his wife several times and his son Mauro was born in 1955.  They joined him in Edmonton in 1960 where their daughter Katy was born in 1961.  He was a community pioneer involved in a range of activities including the founding of Italian-language radio programming and the legalization of winemaking in the Province of Alberta. He was a co-founder of the Programma Italiano, which started in the mid-1950s, with Franco Spinelli and Joe Bocchinfuso on CHFA and lasted for 25 years.  He worked as a real estate agent for many years and, according to a family source, sold many of the Italian immigrants their first homes.  In the early 1970s, he began the Algonquin Hotel, which is still operated by the family.  He died in September, 2000.

  • Pietro Beccio-Pietro had a confectionery called Vieni Confectionery where Edmonton Centre is now.

  • Benincasa-This individual worked at the MacDonald Hotel.

  • Joe Biamonte-Joe was a shoemaker.

  • Luigi Biamonte- Luigi Biamonte in front of the Venice Barber Shop. Photo courtesy of the Biamonte family and the Italians Settle in Edmonton Oral History Project and booklet of the same name.He came to Edmonton c1910 at the age of 13. He joined a brother and some cousins who were working at the Diamond Coal Mine in Clover Bar, near Edmonton. He came from Italy with a musical background, his salvation, as it got him work in bands and helped stave off bouts of homesickness. Luigi enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow countrymen when his band traveled to and played at dances for the Italian farming community of Naples. Besides his music, he also earned a living working as a water boy on the railway in the Coal Branch. He went to barber school, and worked with Florenzo Comin in the Venice Barber Shop on 97th Street. The he set up his own barbershop on Jasper with Bruno Lavorato; a musician who set up a dance band. He also, for many years, ran a travel agency.

  • Tony Biamonte-Tony was a shareholder and director of one of the Edmonton coal mines.

  • Mr. and Mrs. Biasutto pictured received a papal award in 1985 given by Pope John Paul II.  Photo courtesy of the Il Congresso newspaperAngelo Biasutto-Angelo was a community leader who was instrumental in setting up a number of societies. He also helped in the building of the Santa Maria Goretti Church. Angelo was also honorary vice consul of Italy, and granted award by Pope John Paul II in 1986. See Il Congresso article in Italian.

  • Oliva Giovanni Billios married Annie D'Mitruzinski in 1907 in Winnipeg and the family then went to Edmonton. Photo courtesy of Mary Biollo Doyle.Olivo John, and brothers Angelo, and Joseph Biollo- Mr. Olivo John Biollo was born in 1886, in Venice, Italy. His wife came to Canada from Poland in 1899, at the age of 8. He arrived in Winnipeg c1900, where he married and started a couple of businesses with two of his brothers.  They proved unsuccessful, so he moved to Edmonton from whence a number of Italian families got together to form a farming colony near Lac La Biche, approximately 200 km. north-east of Edmonton. In 1916, O.J. Biollo was the first postmaster of the hamlet he named Venice after his home city. In Edmonton, O. J. operated a rooming house known as the Savoia Hotel on 96th Street and 3rd Avenue as well as the Family Theatre; brother Angelo had a grocery store on 96th Street and 4th Avenue. O.J. passed away in Edmonton.

  • Bomben(s)- The family came to Edmonton by 1915.

  • Father Giovanni Bonelli.  Photo courtesy of the Heritage Community Foundation. Father Giovanni Bonelli-Father Giovanni Bonelli arrived in Edmonton from Chicago in 1957 because of a demand by the Italian community of Edmonton for their own parish.  He and Father Rino Ziliotto were sent by the Scalabrini Fathers in Chicago to fill the need. He became the co-founder (with Father Rino Ziliotto) of the only Catholic-Italian Parish in Edmonton-Santa Maria Goretti.

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