Welcome to a new monthly feature in which we tell the stories of Revelstoke’s seniors, old-timers and pioneers. In our first instalment, Imogen Whale speaks to her neighbour Maria Frasca, who immigrated to Revelstoke in 1958.
Maria Frasca’s life has not been an easy one. She immigrated long before global communication was easily and cheaply accessible. She has lost family and friends, but she remains a stoic fixture in the Italian community of Revelstoke. Maria is also my neighbour and one of the bravest people I know.
“I came here in 1958. The first two years were in Albert Canyon,” Maria says. “It was very lonely, I was depressed.”
Maria was a beautiful 18-year-old. She had recently married Dominic Frasca after a six month courtship in Avelilino, Italy. Moving from her home, Maria left all her family and friends behind. Dominic, who came to Canada in 1951, had worked his way around the province of B.C. in a welding gang that had set up shop in Albert Canyon.
“Everyone in Canada had a phone in their house,” Maria says of the difficulty of being away from her close knit family. “But in Italy, people didn’t. There were only a couple phones, maybe at the doctor’s or lawyer’s or priest’s.”
Two years later, the couple moved to Revelstoke.
“Revelstoke was better. I lived on Second Street. My neighbour had also come from Italy and we became friends.”
Many years later, the two remain close friends and neighbours.
It took Maria fifteen years to make it back to Italy to visit for the first time, bringing along her husband and four children. When asked if she ever wanted to move back, Maria shrugged. “After your parents die, it’s not your home anymore. Here is home.”
Maria does want to make another trip back to visit her sister, but she is first hoping to have cataract surgery.
“Revelstoke used to be full of Italians, in the 80’s and 90’s especially, but now they’re mostly dead,” Maria says bluntly.
Maria shows me her beautiful home and her Catholic roots shine through as images of the crucifixion and the virgin Mary adorn the walls, along with photographs of her beautiful family.
There are pictures of her two surviving children, a son in Vancouver, and her daughter in Revelstoke, and their families. There are also images of the two children Maria lost, and their families.
“Cancer, both of them,” she says sadly. “My son Tony was a train engineer and my daughter Paula had two young children. I’ve lost two of my nephews as well, and my husband.”
Dominic suffered a stroke a decade ago, and after struggling on for several years, a year ago he passed away. Maria works in her garden, a large affair boasting endless greens, tomatoes and dahlia flowers, for him.
“He loved the garden. It was his passion. After his stroke, I carried it on. But he lost interest in it, and for me now, it is something to do and pass the time.”
Maria tells me of my own yard and where once, long before my family moved in, there was a vegetable garden, now long since given over to grass.
“My life, it has been a hard life,” Maria explains. “My life was the happiest when the kids were young and at home. Before Dominic was sick,” Maria takes a breath. “But I look after my family. I have friends all over, good friends of a long time. I mind my own business, I’m honest and no gossip.”
Maria is generous and strong. Her life has been full of adventure, love and heartbreak. There is something to be said about having such an inspiring individual close by. We should all be so lucky.