Revelstoke First World War soldier Antonio Orlando appears in uniform in this photo contributed by his daughter Rosemary Sisson.

Remembrance Day: The search for a Revelstoke veteran’s story

The discovery of the writer’s name on a First World War veterans’ roll piques curiosity about the soldier’s story

A few years ago while I was researching a Remembrance Day story, the name jumped out at me from the list.

‘A. Orlando’ – my initial and name – was listed as a Revelstoke veteran of the First World War.

Who was he, I wondered.

I hadn’t heard of the family name Orlando in Revelstoke; that line of my extended family moved to Trail three generations ago to work as skilled foundry workers. They hailed from Agnone, Italy, where my great grandfather worked at the Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli; a bell foundry that started up in 1040, producing bells for churches and cathedrals across Europe since then.

In Italy, Orlando is a common family name, but I wondered if there was a connection?

My answer came from Atherton, California, resident Rosemary Sisson, born Rosemary Orlando of 506 Vernon Avenue, Revelstoke, B.C.

Sisson, now 90, left Revelstoke in 1945 when she was 21. She moved to California to be closer to relatives there.

I had written about the connection in passing, and she responded with a letter. I spoke with Rosemary last week.

“I was born and raised in Revelstoke,” Sisson says proudly. Her mother was Mary Fettante and her father Antonio Orlando.

Do you get the newspaper, I ask. “No, but I follow you on the internet – on the computer.” She’s been learning for the past few years.

Our conversation brings back the memories. Do the kids still swim at Williamson’s Lake, she asks. Of course, I say, did she?

“Did we ever,” Sisson said. They used to walk there from downtown Revelstoke. “And we would pray all the way that somebody would come by in a car and give us a ride. Otherwise we walked all the way from our house to the lake.”

Of course, she remembers our unforgettable winters.

“It makes me think of Revelstoke and my old home and how we used to slide off the roof there, and all the snow and how pretty it is. I wish I could come back again sometime.” Sisson now uses a walker to get around, and said she isn’t sure she’s up to travelling here for the next homecoming.

Sisson lists off family names, asking me if any of them still live here. Didomassi? Vingo? Sanservino? Porter? Gallicano?

She was heavily involved in the Catholic church here, teaching Sunday school and frequently attending mass.

She remembers being a princess on the International Association of Machinists Float. She was Miss Justice, and rode the float alongside co-princesses Dolly Lougheed and Norma Watson.

Her father Antonio was a machinist for the railway, where he worked for many years. Born in Massafra, in southern Italy in 1891, he left Italy alone at the age of 15 and arrived in Revelstoke in 1907.

He served in the Canadian military in the First World War, but didn’t see action in mainland Europe. Sisson said he shipped out to England and had reached the large military base in Aldershot, England when the war ended.

Her father’s military experience wasn’t a topic of conversation, Sisson said. “I’m sorry we never asked.”

Sisson remembers Revelstoke during the Second World War. “We used to go down to the railroad station to see the trains go by with the soldiers on it. We would wave and say hello … at the soldiers as they went by on the train,” she said. She recalls Canadian citizens of Japanese decent who had been interned in Revelstoke; they intermingled during dances and social events.

I speak with Sisson, looking for family connections. She travelled to several weddings in Trail as a young woman, and could have met my grandfather, who was a few years older than her.

But aside from that, it looks like the connection is just by the name, as far as we can tell.

On Remembrance Day, take time to share and hear the stories of those who no longer can share their own, so they can live on with you.

 

 

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