My Father the Italian Immigrant

web4Today is a day of gratitude and awestruck reflection. 60 years ago, on May 8, 1958, with only $10 to his name, my father arrived at Pier 21 Halifax, Nova Scotia after leaving, many friends, farm animals, his home country, his five siblings and at sometimes dozens of extended families, living under one farmhouse, he left to seek out a better life.
Before I get to that better life let me give you a glimpse of what it was like to live in 1940’s Northern Italy.
The sights of warplanes flying overhead were common, with some major bombings in Neighboring towns, including in Treviso, 40 kms away where over 2000 people were killed. Back then it took them over a month to find out about it as the only form of communication in those small towns was word of mouth. They drank the same water as the farm animals which they had to haul into the house from the well. Cold winter nights were kept warm by going inside the barn, where the various cows helped people stay warm as they passed the evening.
Getting to school was by horse and my father’s shoes were made of wood called Zoccali. As technology advanced they upgraded the wooden shoes with a horseshoe-like metal on the bottom so the wood would last longer.
Back to his better life
He travelled 14 days by boat, enduring seasickness for the entire voyage until finally arriving in Halifax as a landed immigrant to Canada, a place where he saw indoor plumbing for the first time. He then took a 5-day train ride to Kitimat, where he joined his eldest brother to work on the railroads. He was only 19 years old, didn’t speak the language and had a grade five education, but he had a fierce determination to make something of himself and an incredibly strong work ethic to make it happen. When there was no more work up North, my father made his way to Vancouver where he was able to find a job. While always being a man of faith, my father attended Sacred Heart Church in the then Italian enclave of Strathcona where he met my mother. Soon after they married and started our family. Wanting to provide the best life for us, my Dad and a friend partnered to form their own paving company. By 1988 he expanded the business further and became the sole operator of the paving company and two years later, it became a true family enterprise when my older brothers joined him in this venture that still today, provides a living for several people in the community. My father has always kept strong ties with his heritage. He volunteers at St. Helen’s Parish and is a high-ranking member of the Knights of Columbus. He is on the board of the Trevisani Nel Mondo and a member of the Associazione Culturale Calabrese and was part of the ICSF board in the early years amongst many other organizations, keeping alive Italian culture and traditions for his family and community. He was awarded the Immigrant of the Year award in 2012 to recognize his lifelong efforts in helping the community thrive. Most notably is his generosity when it comes to charity. For 20+ years my father shared his joy of Christmas with the community by adorning his home with a 50,000-light display. His efforts raised over $130,000 for the Michael Cuccione Foundation and he donated every cent.
It’s safe to say that no matter what I ever accomplish in life, it will never be comparable to what my father has done and been through. The amount of hard work and sacrifice he has put-in will always be incomprehensible to me. I’m sure many of you reflect on your parents’ or grandparents’ story and feel the same. I could only hope to be half the man he is. So today I reflect on my father’s story like many others and his amazing legacy and wish him a heartfelt congratulation and thank you.
Your Son
Randy Rinaldo

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