Friday, September 2, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
My mum looks after Marcus every Tuesday. She sent me this email after spending the day with him:
Conversation with Marcus at McDonald's today:
Marcus – “I love you Nonna”
Me – “I love you too Marcus”
Marcus – “will you be my best friend Nonna?”
Me – “yes Marcus I would love to be your best friend”
Marcus “I’m happy now Nonna”
Me – “I’m happy too Marcus”
What can I say!!! love him to bits...... and to make it more special he was sitting in the same chair that my father sat in 2 weeks ago when he had his last meal at MacDonald's. 5 minutes later Marcus asked me where Nonno Giovanni was. I said he was in heaven. "Did he catch the plane Nonna?"
On the 23rd of June 1928 in Bari Italy, husband and wife, Paolo Altamura and Maria Stella Grieco, welcomed Giovanni Altamura into the world. He was the seventh child of thirteen, with 9 brothers and 3 sisters. They lived in a small two bedroom apartment and it was not unusual for my father to share a double bed with 5 of his brothers. Dad was an active and playful child and was often mischievous.
When he was around 16 years old, work was hard to find, so he began working for the council in Bari as a rubbish collector and street cleaner. After this, he started working for a fruit stall in the market and eventually, at around 23 years old, he joined his family’s fruit stall, working with his brothers Tomasso, Salvatore and Benito.
Our father volunteered for the Army and soon set off to Africa, staying there for approximately 10 months. He wasn’t back in Italy for very long, when once again, he got itchy feet and decided to respond to the immigration call and moved to Australia on his own.
He travelled by ship and arrived in Melbourne on 1st April 1952. He stayed in an immigration centre for the first month . He then travelled to Moree, Invarell and Bellata to work on the newly constructed railway. Our father would often talk about his year in Bellata and the bad conditions in which he lived and worked. He earned 8 pounds a week and paid 10 shillings for rent. There were no kitchens and so they had to cook on open outdoor fires. If it rained or snowed they would eat canned food. Can you imagine a Barese eating food out of a can?
One day he saw an ad in the Italian La Fiamma advertising for laborers to work at Mount Beauty. My father and 3 others went to work there for 5 months to build the tunnel. In May 1953 he saw another ad in La Fiama for workers to work for a nickel mining company in New Caledonia. He responded to the ad and went to work there for 10 months. Conditions were good there but they were underpaid so my father was involved in organizing the first ever strike in New Caledonia.
It was whilst working in New Caledonia that Nonno met his wife Simone. She was waiting outside the picture show with her friends and saw this handsome man walk past. She was eating a mandarin and threw a peel at him. He turned around and it was love at first sight. Although he only spoke Italian and she spoke only French their love transcended all obstacles. Nonno proposed to Nonna before he returned to Australia and she followed a couple of months later and they married. They had a small wedding ceremony as they had no family in Australia.
Nonno and Nonna initially bought a house in Rozelle where their first child Christina was born. Then one day in 1961 Nonno came home telling Nonna he had bought a house in Seven Hills. She had no idea where that was but packed up the house and moved there anyway. In 1962 whilst living in Seven Hills they had their second child Paul.
Nonno had several different jobs over the years but it was when he was working as a laborer for Transfield metal construction company that he was involved in a crane accident and suffered quite a bad back injury. Unfortunately the next few years of his life were filled with back operations and not working which began to take a toll on him and his family. However, he was a resilient and determined man and managed to overcome this. He then started working as a carpet salesman - a job he enjoyed and succeeded at.
In 1978 Nonno and Nonna decided to move back to the inner west, in Five Dock, to be closer to his daughter after she married. They remained in the same house until his passing.
Nonno, you were a man of compassion - always there for your family and friends. You went out of your way to help those in need, welcoming other fellow-Italian immigrants into your life and into your home, being available to provide guidance and support. You were the type of person who would put other people’s needs before yours. A prime example was when you started to become unwell; your main concern was the love of your life – your wife, our Nonna. She was your priority and you always put her first.
Nonno, you were a family man – your family meant the world to you. You were always there for us and we could always rely on you. In all of us you instilled a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility and a firm sense of what was right and wrong and for that we are grateful. When we were children you took us everywhere; the movies, the Easter show, holidays in the caravan, our sports games and events, just to name a few. You provided well for your family –thank you for being such a giving person and looking after us. You always made sure your fridge (and ours) were full – we know that your son Paul will especially miss popping in and enjoying a feast of prosciutto with you. We will miss the days of enjoying your delicious home-made pensarotti and focaccia and sitting around your big family table eating meal, after meal, after meal. We will always remember you with your cold coffee you would keep in a glass bottle in the fridge.
Nonno, you were a protector – a protector of all those you loved. No matter what the situation was, you would always stick up for your family and friends. Christina, your daughter, will never forget that only a few weeks ago, when a man smashed in to her parked car at Haberfield and started abusing her, you came out of Dolcisimo ready for a confrontation. No one was going to abuse your daughter and get away with it, even if you were 82 years of age. You were ready for a fight!
Nonno, you were an Italian man who embraced the Australian way of life: taking the family to eat Pappa Giovanni pizza on Bondi Beach; eating meat pies, Kentucky Fried Chicken , craft cheese, Cadbury chocolate, and stopping off at McDonald’s at any opportunity for a thick shake. You were one of the very few Italians who travelled to china town on a weekly basis to get your Chinese soup. You enjoyed travelling the coast and even had a caravan in the 1960’s before other Italians even knew what they were.
Nonno, you were a man who liked to follow rules – your own rules, especially when it came to road rules. We believe you invented road rage Nonno. However, you had a strong sense of right and wrong and didn’t tolerate any nonsense and excuse for doing the wrong thing.
Nonno, you were a man with a great sense of humour and enjoyed a good laugh with your family and friends. You were not afraid to dress up in your granddaughter’s floral headband or join your grandson and grandson-in-laws in trying to hold yourself up on a pole horizontally on a busy train!!
Nonno, you were a man who had a passion for life. You absolutely loved life. You had an abundance of energy and you could never stay still. Nonna would often comment on how she would have to walk from one end of town to the other (in her high heels mind you!!) You were always on the go and it was common for your family to drop past and find that no one was home. We soon learnt that one of us would have to run out and ring the doorbell to check that you were both home before the rest of the family got out of the car. Part of your ‘on the go’ lifestyle involved enjoying a night out on the dance floor with Nonna, dancing the night away and enjoying evenings at Canada Bay Club, feasting on a Chinese meal.
Nonno, you were also a man of adventure – travelling the world together with Nonna. You visited the US, China, Bali, Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore and you travelled to New Caledonia every couple of years to spend time with Nonna’s family. You were also almost a permanent resident at High Surf at Surfer’s Paradise, where you would go to rest after a holiday. Nonno, I will especially remember the trip to Bari together in 2005. You were in your element – you knew every second or third person and you had the biggest smile on your face the whole time. You showed Anthony and I many things about your life in Bari, and I will especially remember the shop where your mum bought you your first suit for your 21st birthday. The memories of the Bari trip will be with me forever. By the way Nonno, you will be proud to know that Paul has finally bought his first suit at the age of 47 years old!!
Another Bari memory that will never be forgotten is when mum and Paul came to Bari in 2008 when you had a heart attack and when they got to the hospital you were outside smoking with the doctors, even though you were given strict instructions from the Italian doctors not to smoke. It did not matter how much we all bugged you about quitting, you were determined not to leave this world as a result of smoking – even if you had been smoking since about the age of 15.
You were the best husband, dad and Nonno anyone could ask for. We will love and respect you forever. We will always remember your life-long motto and number one rule: DON’T TRUST NO BODY.
Rest in Peace. You will never be forgotten.