Ierullo: An Angel from “The Village”
met Mrs. Mary Ierullo one Friday morning when the harsh sounds of a
construction machine were being drowned out by the voices of children
playing on Willow Street, where Mrs. Ierullo’s house is located.
The sign on the door read: “This house is protected by angels.”
A promise fulfilled immediately, for from the moment I came in I was
surrounded by angels. They were everywhere: on the walls, in the garden,
in the photos. The most important one, however, was sitting right beside
me. Mary Ierullo has done so much for the Italian-Canadian community
that she could truly be called an angel.
proud lady seems to be first in many things. She was the first Italian
female real estate broker in Ottawa and Canada, and most likely in
North America. While working as a court interpreter for Lyle Gillespie,
Mary Ierullo once spent six consecutive hours translating from Italian
into English and vice versa.
stood up and gave me a standing ovation. No one has ever been able
to go through a solid six hours without stopping,” said Mrs.
Ierullo proudly. Also, she and her husband honoured Saint Anthony
in 1953 by putting out the Italian, Vatican and Canadian flags.
this, others in the village did the same,” said Mrs. Ierullo.
has a glow in her eyes each time she speaks about “her village”
and its people.
called this the Italian Village because for us it was an extension
of the home that we had left behind,” explained Mrs. Ierullo.
“We had our church, we had our school, and we had our village.”
Nazarena Dolores Parotta arrived in Ottawa in 1929 at the age of eight
with her mother, uncle and grandmother. They came from the lower portion
of the Italian peninsula, Calabria, like a majority of Italian families
of the time. (Her uncle Bruno Messina came to Canada in 1909 and her
two aunts went to Argentina in 1920.)
Zeljka Gaspar) Mary Ierullo in her garden.
generation has gone through Depression. We have gone through the war.
We have been able to mix and blend with people from different countries
who moved here like ourselves. Fortunately, most of us did not have
the scars that the later years brought in, the scars of fugitives.
I, who worked as an interpreter with Immigration, could not only hear
their pain but I could also feel their pain,” said Mrs. Ierullo.
that the focal point at all times was St.
day in 1954 Father Jerome, who was the priest at the time, called
me and said: ‘Mary, we are having a difficult time and I am
wondering if you would be able to help out?’”
number of Italians were arriving from Sault Sainte-Marie and South
Porcupine where they had previously worked in the mine, but now
there were no jobs for them. So they came to Ottawa. They had nowhere
to stay so Mrs. Ierullo and her husband, Vincent, together with
other people from “The Village,” put out their helping
pitched in,” said Mrs. Ierullo. “We were very devoted. I
think that’s what made this community what it was – the
old-fashioned dignity and respect that one holds for the other, which
is a wonderful gift. We stayed together, supported and helped each other.
We all worked together.”
a young girl Mary Ierullo dreamt of becoming a nun. However, on
the advice of Mother St. Thomas Aquinas she “opened [her]
heart to God and accepted the place which He had chosen for [her].”
the age of 31 she married Vincent Ierullo, a bakery worker, and
they had three children: Peter, Anthony and Angela. Starting in
1952 and continuing for the next 45 years, Mrs. Ierullo worked as
a freelance court interpreter. She also gave typing lessons. In
1953, her husband Vincent suffered the third successive injury at
that moment I knew that I had to get into something solid. That
is how I got the idea of going into real estate,” said Mrs.
Ierullo, who in 1955 started to work as a real estate agent.
Ierullo with her mother, Angela Maria Messina.
years later, after passing the examination for real estate broker,
she opened her own office. The sign on it read: “M. Ierullo,
Real Estate Broker, Ottawa’s First Real Estate Office to Help
Canadians and New Canadians of Average Earnings.” The agents
who worked for her could sell and buy houses in six languages (English,
Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Hebrew), something that
had never been done before. Mrs. Ierullo can still recall the name
of every person she sold a house to, as well as the names of those
she helped in other ways.
I asked Mrs. Ierullo if people still remember how much she did for
the community she answered with an assuring “Oooh, yes.”
phoned when I fell; they had cards and flowers sent. Oh yes. But the
most important thing for me is that warmth that I feel when I pick
up the phone and somebody says: ‘Signora, mi aiutate?’
(Mrs. can you help me?)”
article was originally published in the October 2000 issue of Il
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