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The Antonio 'Mr. Tony' Curcio story: Part 2 (5 photos)

In this week's Remember This, Mary Harris continues with part two of Curcio's story as his family flourishes in Allandale

The news was good!

In the April 9, 1925 edition of the Northern Advance, it was reported that all the prayers and hard work of Mr. Tony had finally paid off and that he had received a telegram informing him that his wife, Angela Maria, had arrived safely in New York City aboard the Martha Washington.

She was on her way to Allandale and was accompanied by their 11-year-old daughter, Libera Grazia, a child born in the months after Mr. Tony returned from his 1913 visit to Italy. Father and child had never met.

Mr. Tony was more than ready for his long-awaited family reunification. He had a good home on Cumberland Street all set up for the arrival of Angela Maria and Grazia. He had been saving and preparing for this moment for 23 years, far longer than he had likely imagined when he first left his home in Italy.

Within two years, the little family moved just down the hill from their Cumberland Street home to a small, neat white house at 89 Gowan St., at Bayview Drive.

Angela Maria began to get comfortable in her new surroundings and was soon more commonly known as Mary or Mrs. Tony to her neighbours. Grazia, or Grace, began her Canadian education at St. Mary’s School in Barrie and eventually graduated from Barrie Collegiate Institute.

While her husband worked in the rail yards, Angela Maria created a most magnificent garden on the Gowan Street property. A little stream, complete with a small foot bridge, ran behind the house. Angela Maria’s colourful flowers were admired by everyone, but it was her kitchen garden that drew the most attention. She planted vegetables familiar to her that had never been seen in Barrie before.

A former Gowan Street neighbour shared some very fond recollections with me this week.

“Mrs. Tony had a wonderful garden. She and my father exchanged veggies that the other never had.”

She went on to say that Angela Maria’s fine horticultural skills eventually grew into a bit of a small business venture and also created a lasting friendship.

“I was very young going with my dad to Mrs. Tony’s. He loaded up a utility trailer with some of our veggies and then picked up some from her and I went with him when he sold the goods all over Allandale. He never missed Church’s Trailer Park driving up and down the roads selling fresh goods. Then back to Mrs. Tony’s to drop off the profits and share a glass of wine!”

In 1931, the family dynamic changed once again with the departure of Grazia Curcio. Grazia was 17 years old by then and a recent high-school graduate. It was decided that she and her mother should return to Italy.

It wasn’t long before Grazia became engaged to Pasquale De Simone of her home town of Bisaccia. Once her daughter was married and settled, Angela Maria Curcio returned to Canada.

Antonio and Angela Maria continued to work hard. They invested in local real estate and eventually owned houses on Gowan Street, Cumberland Street and Burton Avenue.

In 1949, they purchased a chunk of commercial property on Essa Road, just south of the railway crossing. Numbers 29, 31 and 33 Essa Road became known as the Curcio Block.

That same year saw another wonderful family reunion for the Curcio family. On a Tuesday evening, Jan. 4, Antonio and Angela Maria met Grazia at the C.N.R. station in Allandale. Grazia had arrived two days earlier in New York City aboard the Marina Shark with her husband, Pasquale De Simone, and their four children, Wanda, Francesco, Angela and Guido.

The De Simones had come to stay.

The newspapers of the day described the joy of the family and of the Allandale community that had grown to love their Mr. and Mrs. Tony.

Grazia remembered the neighbourhood well, even after a 17-year absence, and could still carry on a conversation in English, a language that her husband and children could not yet speak. The children were amazed at the abundance of Canadian snow and immediately embraced the popular pastime of sledding. Antonio quickly bought them their own sled.

After a half-century working on the railway, Antonio retired but did not give up working completely. During the 1950s, as he was approaching 70 years of age, Antonio was employed as a janitor in the Barrie Public Utilities Commission building. A lifetime of hard work and saving pennies was not something to simply give up.

At the age of 82 years, the beloved Allandale fixture passed away at 89 Gowan St., on the 14th of February, 1961. All of Allandale mourned and many turned up at the Jennett Funeral Home and at St. Mary’s Church to support Angela Maria in her grief.

Antonio was laid to rest at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Sunnidale Road.

Angela Maria was eager to carry on with her life in Allandale. She had set down deep roots in her community, and in Canada as a whole, and formed great friendships in her adopted neighbourhood. The De Simones had returned to Italy to live and Grazia begged her mother to join them. They believed it was only natural that she return to Italy too, where she had family support, but the strong-willed widow pushed back for a number of months.

Finally, her son-in-law, Pasquale, arrived in Canada with the mission of escorting Angela Maria Curcio home again. After several local going away parties and many tears, the lady known as Mrs. Tony left Allandale on Oct. 1, 1961 bound for New York City and passage on the Leonardo DaVinci which was headed for Naples, Italy.

Her 37-year residency in the Barrie area was over when she returned to Italy, but she never forgot about her life on the other side of the Atlantic. Her grandchildren were raised on Canadian stories. Her great grandchildren and her great-great grandchildren recall them well today.

But the story does not end there. Oh no, it does not!

If you missed it, read Part 1 here.

Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.


Mary Harris

About the Author: Mary Harris

Mary Harris is the Director of History and Research at the Barrie Historical Archive. The Barrie Historical Archive is a free, online archive that centralizes Barrie's historical content.
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