My Roots – Written by Len D’Agostino
My great grandparents left Picinisco in 1883 and traveled north, seeking a better life. They wandered through Italy, France, and England playing a barrel organ. When they came north to Scotland there was nowhere else to go. Their arrival in Edinburgh sentenced me forever to a lifetime of explaining my Italian name and Scottish accent. Word got back through the grapevine and others in a classic example of chain migration joined them in Edinburgh. So much that the war memorial in Picinisco, Italy reads like the Edinburgh telephone book. Scotland must have seemed like the end of the world to them, but soon they prospered, opening up cafes, selling ice cream and chocolates to the sweet-toothed Scots.
My Italian connection is a barely visible thread. I was born in Edinburgh as was my father Gaetano. He married a wee Scots lassie named Cathie. The family ties of Italians make the clannishness of the Scots seem like infidelity, so Gaetano was banished from the family for years.
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my Italian heritage. It was as if I was two persons. One Len, the Scot, trying desperately to fit in, and another one, Leonardo, whose fertile genes fought hard to establish themselves in this cold and misty land. My problem was far more complex than deciding whether to cheer for Italy or Scotland in the World Cup of Soccer.
Len immigrated as a young man to Canada. In the beginning he had many different jobs, he played professional soccer, and took evening classes in film and television arts at Ryerson. It is here that he met his first wife Patricia; they went on to have four children together.
As a Production manager and Line Producer, Len had a lifetime of film production, planning, budgeting, and managing award winning international dramas and documentaries for the CBC and independent producers, including Road to Avonlea, The National Dream, and Dieppe.
His strong connection to his Scottish-Italian roots gave him a keen interest in genealogy. He has traced his Italian family roots back nearly 400 years.
Len’s love for writing led him to write articles in his local newspaper and adapt his grandfather’s published autobiography The Wandering Minstrel about a child street musician’s journey from Italy to Scotland in 1888, into a Young Adult Novel; a chapter from his novel, Tony can be found in the book Changing Ways, published by Hidden Brook Press in 2008.
In his sixties Len met Jirina, the love of his life. They married in Italy, in the village of his ancestors.
Len lived with Parkinson’s Disease for over fifteen years. Wanting a healthier environment Len and Jirina moved from Toronto to Colborne to a beautiful 200 year old house, where they called home for 9 years. The house became Len’s passion, he spent many years researching it’s history, and became a member of The Historical Society. He was a driving force behind his house receiving a historical designation.
On February 20th, 2015, at the age of 86, Leonard passed away from complications related to Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. He leaves behind his beloved wife, Jirina; his children, Stephen (Rita), Maria Burochain, Dan (Xia), Marta Carlucci (Domenic), and Michelle Marton; his grandchildren, Brendan, Priscilla, Katrina, Donovan and Sadie; his stepmother Norah, sister Rosalinda, and nephew Justin (Kee Chong).
A mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Michaels’s Catholic Church on Friday, February 27, 2015, at 10:30am. Followed by a Celebration of Life at MacCoubrey Funeral Home. Memorial donations may be made to the Parkinson’s Society of Canada or the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. Condolences received at www.MacCoubrey.com.
For more information about this obituary visit http://www.MacCoubrey.com.