A Pillar of Il Centro Has Fallen

With the sudden death of 92-year-old Olivio Gazzola, a chapter closes on a vibrant spirit of unceasing dedication who was indeed an exceptionally popular lifetime member of IL Centro. Being exceptional was his signature suit as Olivio proved to be an exceptional member of the Carabinieri, an exceptional son, husband, father, grandfather as well an exceptional friend to many associates and colleagues. With the sudden death of 92-year-old Olivio Gazzola, a chapter closes on a vibrant spirit of unceasing dedication who was indeed an exceptionally popular lifetime member of IL Centro. Being exceptional was his signature suit as Olivio proved to be an exceptional member of the Carabinieri, an exceptional son, husband, father, grandfather as well an exceptional friend to many associates and colleagues. Circa 1974, Olivio applied his considerable talents to a myriad of volunteer activities during the construction phase of the Italian Cultural Centre.  He is best known, however, for being one of the original Bingo Captains, tombola pubblica, having served in that capacity for thirty-six years. In the initial years, he volunteered every Sunday with his wife Maria to work the bingo tables and later supervised one Sunday bingo event every month until retirement three years ago. The total efforts of the Bingo management team have facilitated millions of dollars in much needed revenue for IL Centro. Truly a brilliant concept and accomplishment! Without his indefatigable persona, Olivio surely would have met an ignominious end during the Second World War. At the tender age of 18, Olivio felt compelled to do his part for his country, then at war.  He enlisted in the prestigious national Carabinieri police force and soon departed his home town of Padova for active duty in Rome which was under siege.Shortly thereafter, on August 14, 1943, life took a dramatic turn for the young teenager. He was on parade the day Italy’s capital was declared an open city, Roma citta’ Aperta, by the Allies whose intent was to cause a cessation of aerial bombing.  When the Italian government capitulated, German ground troops rushed in and took command of the Eternal City. They immediately arrested all government military personnel including members of the Carabinieri and held them in captivity.  Olivio and his colleagues soon were herded into boxcars and shipped by rail, amid cramped and unsanitary conditions, to Germany, and later Austria and Hungary, to work in labour camps. Miraculously, Olivio survived 20 months of cruel and aggravated confinement which comprised an incredible regimen of strenuous slave labour, a diet of ‘starvation’ rations, constant degradation, death threats and Allied bombing raids. Olivio made a number of attempts at escape and finally was successful in April, 1945, when he and fellow captives made a break for it in Hungary.  Following a harrowing experience, he and four other escapees virtually walked the distance to the Italian border where they were repatriated by elements of the American medical core.Following the end of the war, Olivio travelled to Switzerland on a work-related assignment where he met Maria with whom he was destined to spend the rest of his life.  Following their marriage, the young couple immigrated to Vancouver, Canada (1953) where they raised a fine family of sons; Oscar, Frank and Walter.  In time, the family expanded to include daughters-in-law Linda, Darlene and Jane who collectively presented i nonni Gazzola with six doting grandchildren. Prayers are scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. with a funeral service to be celebrated at 10 a.m., Friday, August 11, 2017 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Addio Olivio!Ray CulosAttachment: Photo of Olivio Gazzola taken by Ray Culos in 2007

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