Canadian Aboriginals live by the seven-generation rule, which
simply means that they consider how their actions today will
affect their children's children right down to the seventh
generation. Some environmentalists use this idea to urge people
to respect the planet. Other people live this law in terms
of preserving a rich and vibrant culture for future generations.
Licari is one such person. He has dedicated his life to the
continuation of Italian culture and language and has done
so by building and maintaining strong family and community
Licari was born in 1929 on Preston Street and lived there
for the next 70 years. Born just two months after his seven-year-old
brother Angelo died, he was baptized Angelo Secondo Licari.
His parents would have no other children. Licari admits that
as the only child he was "precious."
were very devoted parents and placed a great importance on
promoting and preserving the Italian culture in our home,"
recalls how at six-years-old he started to speak English at
home and his mother said, "No, in questa casa si parla
parents, Domenico and Paola (Belle) Licari, were community
pioneers. They left their hometown of Fiumara in Reggio Calabria
to come to Canada in 1912. Like many immigrants they arrived
at Pier 21 in Halifax, later moving to Ottawa. Also like many
immigrants, Domenico first worked for the railroad. He then
entered a traditional Italian industry - building - and remained
in the plaster/stucco trade the rest of his life.
1913, Domenico helped build what would become the cornerstone
of Ottawa's Italian community - St. Anthony's Church.
Preston Street of Angelo Licari's youth had a wonderful sense
of community. Perhaps it was a desire to preserve this atmosphere
that motivated him to become so active in his community.
the age of 16, he joined the Società Figli d'Italia,
becoming its youngest member. The society, founded in 1907,
was the first Italian Society in Canada. Many society members
were pioneers of the Ottawa community, including Domenico
the early years, Società Figli d'Italia was one of
the only Italian organizations to exist; therefore, much of
the job of helping new immigrants fell to it.
and the whole social system that we have now didn't exist
then," Licari explains. "We had to help each other."
24, Licari was elected President of the Società Figli
d'Italia; he served for 18 years. This leadership position
would be the first of many: President of St. Anthony's Parish
Council, Vice-President of the Holy Name Society, President
of the Legion of Mary, President of the Altar Boy Society,
and Secretary of St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Licari helped the new Italian immigrants in many ways. He
represented them at immigration hearings and appeals; he acted
as a court translator; he assisted in obtaining building permits
for home renovations; and, he found jobs for many. He also
taught English classes at what was then Dante Academy and
is now St. Anthony's School. Licari also organized over 100
dances, including the famous annual picnic, to help immigrants
one to wait for someone else to lead, Licari took the initiative
on many projects. He initiated citizenship evenings and free
income tax services. He also came up with the idea to memorialize
the Societa Figli d'Italia pioneers. He arranged chauffeurs
to drive the pioneers - all between the ages of 90 and 100
- to St. Anthony's Church Hall where the historical picture
was taken. Afterwards, he served the pioneers brandy. The
photo still hangs in the church basement.
got to realize that it was pretty amazing for someone at the
age of 16 to have an interest in joining such an organization,"
says Stella (Panetta) Licari, one of his seven children.
made a solemn vow to the pioneers that I would maintain, preserve
and promote Italian culture," says Licari.
was an altar boy at St. Anthony's Church for 15 years; the
church became a "second home." He served mass every
morning at 7 a.m. and then again at the Benediction in the
evening. There were many priests and all three of the altars
were used each morning for saying mass. Today only one altar
is used. Licari remembers seeing the famous artist Guido Nincheri
working on the church frescoes and says that he knew all of
the people whose names appear in Nincheri's stained-glass
1952, Angelo Licari performed a nine-week "Novena"
at St. Anthony's Church.
a prayer service," he explains. "If you have a special
intention, you pray for this with the hope of receiving your
request. I was praying for a suitable partner."
months later, his prayers were answered. He met Juliette McIntyre
from New Brunswick and in 1954 they married. They enjoyed
48 years of marriage until Juliette died in March of 2002.
explains how the couple spent their first five years of marriage
living with his parents and describes the relationship as
learned everything," he says, "Italian cooking,
traditions, habits and culture."
went to night school on her own for two years to learn Italian,"
Licari says proudly. "She was in every way a partner.
Whatever I did, I never did it alone because I got my strength
and inspiration from my beloved wife. I can't explain the
emptiness I feel without her."
was the only child, but Juliette was from a large family of
12 and was accustomed to large family gatherings. We entertained
often with Juliette playing the piano and the guests singing
along. Our house was always full of joy and laughter."
top of all the work Angelo Licari did for his community, he
had a successful 40-year career with the government including
the Department of External Affairs where he worked as a Foreign
Service Officer. He visited over 20 countries and "had
the pleasure of visiting Italy several times." In the
interest of promoting international trade, he introduced Canadian
business people to government officials in other countries,
and escorted foreign officials and industry representatives
when they visited Canada.
fail, Licari returned home from a trip bearing gifts: silk
from Thailand, lladros (distinctive porcelain figurines) from
Spain, and always jewelry for Juliette.
retired for the past 14 years, Licari keeps busy by spending
time with hislarge
family (he has seven children and 18 grandchildren), composing
poetry, gardening and reading.
Licari raised his family on Preston Street, living next door
to his parents and only leaving after his father died at the
age of 102 in 1996. Domenico Licari was very proud of his
roots and despite the changing face of Preston into a more
commercial street, refused to leave. So Angelo and Juliette
stayed as well.
of Angelo Licari's family have remained in Ottawa and often
meet for family gatherings.
Licari is still very involved with the community. He's a director
of the Preston Street BIA (Business Improvement Association)
and an enthusiastic supporter of Italian Week.
Week is very close to my heart," he says. "It's
setting a good example for our children and grandchildren.
It's the cultural highlight of the year and all Italians should
attend with great pride."
says that Villa Marconi is something else to be proud of because
"it demonstrates to Ottawa that Italians are united and
successful. It's a symbol of unity and strength."
"I recall my father and his friends often dreaming and
talking about a Villa Marconi," says Licari.
asked what his advice to the Italian community would be, he
says: "Participate in Italian activities, keep culture
fresh, buy a subscription to Italian newspapers so that you're
informed of all the community events. To young people, I would
say get a good education. Our's is a land of magnificent opportunity
but that opportunity is only available provided you have a
Licari's children have learned the lesson well - they understand
how important it is to preserve their Italian heritage for
future generations. Michael Licari has named his own son Angelo
Terzo Licari. There is no doubt there will someday be an Angelo