The Holy Family Church bells rang 93 times on Thursday February 25, 2021 to honor local resident Beny Mangone during his funeral.
Beny was a wonderful supporter of the church in multiple ways. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, aided with church maintenance, and was a greeter at Sunday Mass. He was also in charge of finding individuals to bring gifts to the altar and assisted with numerous dinners and Italian night events at Holy Family and for other groups in the community.
Beny was known as the friendly guy who spent hours in stores selling bingo cards for the weekly Rotary bingo, for minor hockey and the Ghostriders. People also knew his entire family because they all helped organize spaghetti dinners and Italian baking sales for fundraisers.
Beny was recognized by the City of Fernie with the prestigious George Majic Spiritus Award–he was appreciated! For the occasion I wrote a story about Beny and although I’ve known him forever, it was interesting to hear him reminisce about his native Italy and coming to Canada.
It was 1953 when Antonio Benedetto Mangone (Beny) received notification to immigrate to Canada. A wedding with his fiancé, 17-year-old Anna Maria Isabella Fabiano, was quickly organized before he departed.
In the small town of Castelsilano, Italy the families knew each other well. Isabella’s mother was godmother to Beny’s sister Caterina, with Isabella being the bridesmaid and godmother to Caterina’s first child. In southern Italy these family associations were as important as being related by blood. Isabella’s dad Luigi owned a wheat mill and her siblings included Rosetta, Vincenzo, Saverio, and twins Lena and brother Raffaele who died after three weeks after birth.
Beny’s siblings included Teresina, Giovanni, Peppino, Salvatore, Caterina, and twins, Rosalia and Francesco, as well as three who died during the Spanish influenza of 1926. Beny said, “We never had to buy food, we made our own oil, grew potatoes and vegetables, my father had to work to buy only clothing and shoes and tobacco for himself.” His parents owned olive, grain, and grape fields, as well as chestnut groves and chickens, pigs, two goats and a donkey.
Beny remembers his dad making the sign of the cross each morning when he rose, asking God to protect and bless his family. His dad worked in a quarry where rock was mined and produced for stone walls and houses.
Beny’s older brother, Salvatore, came to Canada in 1951 under a government sponsored program. Tt was Salvatore that sponsored Beny into Canada. It wasn’t known how long it would take for the paperwork to be completed, when the emigration call came it was a surprise!
Beny and Isabel were married in church with his niece Maria Gentile as bridesmaid and his cousin Luigi Marano as best man. They had four days together before he left for Canada. Southern Italy in the fifties followed strict rules so engaged couples were not allowed to spend time together alone or sit close to one another. Family was always present so when couples married they had no intimate knowledge of one another.
Beny spent ten days on the ship Conte Bianco Mano landing at Halifax and after several days of train travel arrived in Fernie. He made daily trips to Coal Creek to ask for work to no avail. He went to Kamloops where he dug rocks by the river for the CPR for 75 cents an hour. He spent some time in Lytton repairing and sharpening picks where he made 25 cents more an hour. Food and lodging with the CPR extra gang cost $1.50 day. He eventually returned to Fernie to cut brush and then finally in July of 1954 he was hired at the mine. He then purchased a home on First Avenue and sent for Isabel.
It just over a year before she joined him. Isabel spent nine days on the ocean liner Saturnia and six days on a train crossing Canada before arriving to Fernie. Her parents had arranged that she travel with a friend however she said that the trip was pretty scary for her at times.
Nothing prepared her for getting off the train and seeing Fernie’s snow covered housetop. Beny was at the station with friends who had a car pretending that she had more distance to travel. She commented that the vehicle impressed her, at that time in Italy people were still using ox or donkey carts to get around. Isabel would often joke that when she finally came to Fernie, it was like meeting a stranger as so much time had passed. They lived in nice home that was rather primitive with a tin tub for bathing and a coal and wood stove for cooking and heating.
Beny and Isabel’s home was next door to mine and since my parents knew them from Italy, I soon befriended them as well. I was about nine at the time and found it fun to help Isabel and play checkers with Beny. Later I enjoyed sitting their son Gino and daughter Rose, although by the time Sammy arrived I had children of my own.
The children kept Isabel busy and she soon came to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of her new surroundings and a lovely new home Beny built for the family on Fourth Avenue. Later, other members of her family, including her mother, brothers and sister immigrated to Fernie, as well as Beny’s sister Rosalia and her four children.
Beny worked underground retiring from Westar after 42 years in the mines. When younger he loved hunting and fishing and after retirement he began volunteering. He and Isabel enjoyed supporting hockey when his sons played and later his grandsons. Isabel and Beny celebrated fifty years of marriage, they began their marriage with little knowledge of one another. Unfortunately a couple of years later Isabel passed away leaving Beny and the family devastated by the loss. Beny threw himself into more volunteer work and continued until a fall prevented him from doing so.
At his funeral only nine family members were allowed to attend due to the Covid-19 restrictions but many family members and friends joined by Zoom. Father David said a meaningful mass and grandson Troy Mangone delivered a beautiful eulogy talking about the great support his grandparents gave him and the other grandkids. He mentioned how they were always cheering at games and how they accompanied him to the out of town provincials and ended up cooking a spaghetti dinner not only for the family but for all the team members and parents.
There are always so many memories one could write about those people you’ve known all your life. The best memory of mine with Isabel and Beny, and all who knew them, will be the abundant love and generosity and time we spent together. Sincere condolences are extended to Gino, Rose, Sammy, grandchildren, extended families and friends.