In Italy or Canada, her father left a lasting impression

Fioravante Tenisci, the eldest of six children, was born in 1907 and raised in San Leonardo, a tiny farming village in Italy.

FIORAVANTE TENISCI (back row

FIORAVANTE TENISCI (back row

Fioravante Tenisci, the eldest of six children, was born in 1907 and raised in San Leonardo, a tiny farming village in Italy.At age 21 he and his father Antonio came to Canada to find work, so they could provide a better life for their family in Italy.  They found employment in the Fernie coal mines, keeping only enough of their wages to live on and sending the rest to their family.Four years later Antonio returned to Italy, as he missed his family and the farming lifestyle.  Fioravante moved to Trail, where an Italian community was beginning to establish, and was hired as a labourer  by  Cominco, a copper and zinc smelting operation.He continued to send part of his earnings to his family in Italy.  To earn extra money, he opened a gift shop where he sold religious articles.As Fioravante spoke fluent English and had some formal schooling, he quickly became a mentor to the rest of the Italians, and acted as a liaison between them and the local Canadians.For the next 10 years he was an active member of several local charitable organizations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, where he served as Choirmaster.   Fioravante’s life changed drastically when Benito Mussolini announced that Italy was entering the Second World War.The Canadian government decided to send troops to Italy to help the Allies. As Fioravante was still single, he was asked to join the Canadian troops.His response was, “I will not fight in Italy, because I could end up shooting my relatives.”As a result of his refusal, the Canadian government labelled Fioravante an enemy alien. He was arrested and sent by train to an internment camp in Petawawa, Ont. Meanwhile, his gift shop in Trail was padlocked, and the contents confiscated, never to be returned.                                Fioravante decided to make the most of his predicament. A natural leader, he became a spokesman for the men of the camp.  Also an entertainer, he managed to acquire a secondhand accordion, with which he provided hours of entertainment for his fellow inmates.He also formed a 150-voice choir of inmates, to help lift their spirits. The officials who ran the camp allowed the choir to sing The Mass of St. John the Baptist for then-Prime Minister Mackenzie King and other federal politicians at a picnic held at Petawawa.The mayor of Petawawa was so impressed with the choir that he got the camp guards to truck the choir around to several surrounding communities for concerts.Although the inmates were well fed and treated with respect at Petawawa, several prominent people from the Trail area wrote letters to the War Department in Ottawa asking for Fioravante’s release.Letters of character reference were written by mayors, medical doctors, clergy, Cominco supervisors and executives, government MP’s and various businessmen. The letters fell on deaf ears, and Fioravante wasn’t released until the war ended three years later.Upon being released, Fioravante returned to Trail, and was immediately rehired by Cominco as a supervisor.Now 38 years old, he was anxious to get married and start a family.  He proposed to 23-year-old Emilia Barazzuol, a Canadian-born Italian woman he had been courting before his internment. She accepted, and their union produced 10 children. Fioravante immediately re-established himself as one of the leading citizens in Trail. He continued his volunteer work, and opened a travel agency “for Italians only” who wanted to visit their relatives in Italy, now that the war was over.He also sponsored several people from his home town — including some of his own family — to come to Canada, securing jobs and housing for them before they arrived, and helping them settle in after they arrived.As a result of his efforts, the Italian Government granted him an honorary position as Italian Consular Representative, which gave him the authority to represent Italians in their legal dealings with the Italian government.For several years his tireless energy and compassionate nature kept him immersed in his passion to serve his family and community until, at the age of 63, a devastating stroke left him partially paralyzed.In a fitting tribute to a loyal friend, a steady stream of friends and co-workers visited his hospital room, and later on his home, offering encouragement and wishing him well.He fought long and hard to recover from his stroke, but five years later he suffered a heart attack and another stroke, which caused his health to rapidly decline. In 1980 at age 73, Fioravante passed away. Hundreds of people came to his funeral, among them both Canadian and Italian government officials.Fioravante had always been loyal to both his home country of Italy and his adopted country of Canada. He held no bitterness for the country that interned him for over three years.Loretta Semple is Fioravante Tenisci’s daughter. She lives in Comox.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter not done with the Comox Valley quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend

Dr. John Hooper is the new conductor of Island Voices. Photo supplied
Island Voices welcomes new conductor

This spring will be a time of transition for Island Voices chamber… Continue reading

From left—Rev. Ryan Slifka (minister, St. George’s); Ellen Wise (elder, St. George’s); Evangeline Mathura, (vice-president, Dawn to Dawn); Grant Shilling (outreach worker, Dawn to Dawn), with a cheque for $10,433.15.
Courtenay church donates more than $10,000 to transitional housing and support service

St. Goerge’s presents Dawn to Dawn with $10,433.15 cheque

A pine siskin is treated for salmonella poisoning at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) hospital, in Merville. Photo by Gylaine Anderston.
Salmonella poisoning in birds and pets a result of unclean bird feeders

Have you ever endured a bout of food poisoning? If you remember… Continue reading

Inside the new shop operated by Wachiay Friendship Centre. Jared Kotyk (left), Jan Kotyk, Paloma Joy, Tim Gagnon, Jonah Hill, Jennifer Corbett and Tally, the shop dog. Photo supplied
Wachiay opens store-front arts shop in downtown Courtenay

There’s still tailor-work in the back of old AnnSew site, with the store in front

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from CFB Comox was tasked to assist Arrowsmith Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) in extracting an injured hiker off of Mount Arrowsmith on Jan. 17. Photo by Capt.Reg Reimer
442 Transport and Rescue Squadron assists in Mount Arrowsmith rescue

“The turbulent conditions … made the hoisting quite challenging.”

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Most Read