CIVIERO, PETER (PIERO) April 15, 1930 – February 13, 2021 It is with great sadness that our family announces the passing of Peter (Piero) Civiero on February 13, 2021. He died peacefully of natural causes at his home on Hurontario Street, surrounded by the love of his family and holding the hand of his devoted wife Lena (Marta Arsié). He is missed deeply by his son Angelo (Lorraine Housego) and daughters Elga (Russell Jodway), Brenda (Andrew Fischer), and Janet Civiero. He was adored by his grandchildren Lindsay (Corey), Grant, Keenan, Gabrielle, Jack, and by Peter (Danielle), Philip (Zoe) and Kurtis and Mia, as well as great-grandchildren Rory, Amber, and Elena. He will also be missed by Luca Ballestrin and Leslie Rapos. He leaves behind his siblings Pio (Vivian), Ginetta Smania, and Teresina Doracin along with many nieces and nephews on both sides of the Atlantic. Peter’s life was an extraordinary one. He was sought after in his early career as a skilled pipeline welder and teacher and was well respected in the industry. He excelled in a second career – land development. Self-taught, from modest beginnings in the early 60’s, his natural instincts and ability to see ahead of the real estate market, made him very successful, and many of his colleagues wealthy. He was active in local Italian-Canadian communities. He was a longtime member of the Milton Italian Canadian Club and he generously supported the construction of the Veneto Centre in Vaughan, donating the largest sum by an individual. Over the years he donated to many causes including the Mississauga Hospital. Peter will be remembered by his family as a strong man of few words. He was a self-made man of many talents, a successful entrepreneur, and his word was his bond. He had a passion for his many hobbies but placed his family above all else. His generosity was boundless and his love for life was remarkable. However busy his life got, he always made time to help. He and Lena opened their home to anyone who needed a place to stay. As a father, a husband, uncle, and a successful business man, Peter inspired so many. He had a determination and stamina that few could match. Even in the face of a potentially life crippling accident, he was able to hold it all together and bounce back stronger. Peter had an uncanny ability to entice land owners to sell their land to him. He built relationships with them and he earned their trust. He was the consummate deal maker and succeeded where others had failed. He assembled properties and acquired lands that are now neighbourhoods and homes to countless families and businesses in Mississauga, Milton and the GTA. After his first successful land deal, Peter bought his forever family home on Hurontario Street in 1968. It was a large property with apple trees all around. It had a huge garden and a distinct feature, a wishing well, the kind you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting. The front yard was host to many neighborhood football and baseball games. He was proud of his accomplishment and kept the one acre property in immaculate condition. There was even a pergola with vines that apparently had not bore fruit for years. Peter had a magic touch with plants. With some pruning and fertilizing he brought the grape pergola back to full life, loaded with grapes. His home was some-what of a landmark and still today is recognized and admired by people who live in the area. Friends and acquaintances will remember his kindness and his subtle sense of humor. Peter was proud of his Italian heritage and traditions. As a father he was strict but fair. He ran a tight ship and never missed an opportunity to teach us good values. In the Civiero household, the dinner table was the heart of the home and we were all expected to be there at meal time. Mom was an amazing cook and prepared dinners and if there was any barbecuing to be done, Peter was master at the grill. Instead of a dinner bell or calling out, he would give a unique whistle that was so distinct it would cut through any obstructions, background or traffic noise. No matter where we were in the neighborhood that whistle meant it was time to drop what we were doing and hightail it home fast. Peter exposed us to many cultural traditions from his farming roots like gardening, butchering, making wine from grapes, cider from the apples of his own trees, and also making salami and sausages. He proudly nurtured his huge vegetable garden with a passion. He was creative and developed unique methods of storing lettuce and preserving fresh vegetables that would last well into the winter months. We all benefitted from its harvest long after we had left the nest. He lived for his annual Moose hunting trips. He often would lose sleep awaiting the results of the Moose Tag Lottery to arrive in the mail. He was an experienced hunter and exceptional marksman. Most often he was the one in his group that made the kill. He also did the cleaning and butchering. He loved to keep and train hunting dogs and occasionally he travelled out west to hunt quail and partridge. He was a strong advocate for protecting the wilderness and he strongly opposed hunting for sport. He insisted that nothing be wasted. Whatever was killed had to be for food. Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, he devoted to social meets at the Italian clubs where he loved playing cards and competing in bocce tournaments. He enjoyed sports like soccer and cycling but his favorite was watching the Leafs play hockey and he did it religiously. After his father’s death, Peter stayed in Italy for 6 months. During this time, while driving home in his rented Fiat Topolino, he encountered his childhood friend Aldo (Arsié) driving in his Aprilia sportscar. He honked and Aldo stopped. They were happy to see each other and Aldo invited Peter over to his house in Ramon for a glass of wine and to catch up. This is where Peter met the love of his life, Lena. She was just leaving to go to a movie with her sister Carmen. Peter offered to drive them. Instead of taking them to the movies, he took them dancing. Peter loved to dance and if there was a good song playing you would always find him on the dance floor. That was the beginning of the love story. Peter and Lena would marry in 1959, under special circumstances which I will explain shortly. First, a bit of language history. Italian is a colourful language with many dialects, and with equally descriptive and enigmatic surnames. Some of these adopted surnames were practical – telling a story or describing a trait that enlivened a family’s history. The Civieros had been coined “Pironetto” (loosely translating to “fork wiped clean”) and the Arsiés were known as “Sbolda” (“the shape a sail takes when filled with wind”). When Peter was interviewed by Canada immigration to sponsor his bride to be, he answered all the questions correctly – except one. When asked of Lena’s surname he answered the only surname he knew her family by – Sbolda! Of course, this was a failing mark with immigration and her entry documents were denied. In order to bring Lena into Canada, she would have to be his wife. Peter would either have to quit work and go back to Italy to get married or come up with another solution. Peter was resourceful and thought there must be another way. A workaround to the problem was eventually found. Marriage by proxy. The bride and groom each had a stand-in, a volunteer to take the place of each other’s spouse. On November 26, 1959, Peter and Lena were married in a ceremony with 4,200 miles between them. They later celebrated a proper wedding at St. Dominic’s Church once Lena came to Canada. Lena was happy to follow her Peter to Canada, but it was a big sacrifice to leave her entire family behind for her love. Before they married, Peter made a promise to Lena that she would be able to return to visit her family during summer holidays every two years. From 1965, he kept his promise. The entire family would spend the summer holidays in Italy visiting family in the small villages where Peter and Lena grew up. Born in 1930 in the tiny agrarian town of Poggiana Di Riese PioX, in the Veneto region of North Italy, Peter was the third child in a family of nine children. Strong-willed and determined, he had little interest in academics. At the age of 12, he began working at the local blacksmith learning fabrication and how to forge metal into farm implements and horseshoes. He would work all day at the shop and then after work, he helped on the family farm until the work for the day was done. In his youth he developed a passion for hunting fowl, and bird calling. He would sneak out in the early morning hours (with his father’s rifle) to hone his hunting skills. He trained hunting dogs and guided local hunters to the best spots to hunt birds. Italy was under the totalitarian regime of Mussolini until 1943 when the dictator was removed from power. The Veneto region was occupied by Nazi Germany and was immersed in a brutal conflict between the Partisans (the Italian Resistance) and the remaining Axis powers. Italy had a mandatory draft. Having seen the worst of war, Peter’s parents bought one boat ticket to Canada, so they could protect their oldest son Giuseppe (Joe) from the draft. As it turned out due to a childhood injury, Joe was released from duty. No longer in danger, the boat ticket was used for the next in line for the draft, Peter. Before being called to the draft, Peter boarded the ship Saturnia, to Canada. He arrived here in 1949, with all his worldly possession in a suitcase. He boarded at his uncle Tony and aunt Winifred’s house in Etobicoke and worked in construction with his uncle. He later got a job at Sparling Tank, in New Toronto. His blacksmith skills came in handy as his first job was making steel railings for $1 an hour. He had heard there were opportunities for good welders at BA (the British American) oil refinery in Clarkson. During his lunch hours at Sparling, he practiced welding. After a year at Sparling, he asked for a raise. When they said no he quit on the spot. He hitchhiked from New Toronto to the Clarkson refinery. He arrived at the gates and asked about a welding job. The gatekeeper called the foreman who came to meet him. He asked Peter if he had his welding test certificate. Peter took out his wallet and gave the foreman the card. It was written in Italian. The foreman said he could not read Italian, so he called one of the workers to bring a welding rig over so Peter could do a test. Peter passed the test and was hired on the spot for $2 per hour. The card he provided was the meal voucher ticket he carried in his wallet as a souvenir from his journey to Canada. He worked at BA for about a month before he and three of their best welders were transferred to the border town of Lloydminster. While working in Lloydminster, he heard that pipeline welding paid very well, so he started to practice welding pipe during his breaks. He passed the pipeline welding test and from there on, was in high demand. He was transferred all over the country welding on the pipelines. Peter was a devoted son. He had heard that his family back home had an opportunity to acquire a small plot of land across the road that would help expand the farm. But they were poor and did not have the money to do so. Always ready to help, Peter borrowed the money from his uncle to send back home. The $400 was sent in an envelope. He paid his uncle back with interest. In 1957, a fatal motorcycle accident put his father in the hospital. At the time, Peter was working in the remote town of Winisk, Ontario, on Hudson’s Bay. With no means of contacting him by telephone, the police were called to locate him with the news of his father’s accident. He immediately returned to Italy following his brother Gino who had already returned. He would remain there until the passing of his father. After that, Peter became the patriarch of the Civiero family. He was a hard worker with an ambitious and resourceful nature and was instrumental in bringing his siblings and mother to Canada. He first sponsored his younger brother Gino and later the rest of his siblings and mother. The family home in Poggiana was sold and the proceeds of the sale were just enough to pay for the family’s journey here. His oldest sister Delfina (Mardegan) was the only sibling to remain in Italy. He helped them all to find a place to live and for a period of time, many of them lived with him and Lena in the small bungalow he had built on Ogden Avenue. He helped his brother Joe by teaching him how to weld. Always creative and resourceful, he “loaned” Joe his welding certificate so he could get into the union which he did and subsequently got a job at the then Texaco refinery in Port Credit. Peter eventually ended up working at the Ontario Hydro plant in Lakeview, where welding copper was a requirement. He passed that test too. Welding copper was so specialized that he was offered a teaching position training others to weld. His mother Ida who lived with them said laughingly, “Just look at my son, there he goes off to work with a briefcase in his hand, and all his childhood I had to chase him with a stick just to make him show up at school.” In 1963, Peter had an accident on the Burlington skyway bridge. His son Angelo was barely two years old and Lena was expecting their second child Elga. He got a flat tire on the bridge and it was very foggy. While getting the spare out of his trunk he saw car lights approaching. There was no time to escape the imminent crash so he jumped forward into the trunk. Unfortunately, he was unable to get both legs inside and his left leg was crushed between the bumpers. He was taken to Burlington Hospital where the doctors told him they could not save his leg. Peter explained to the doctors that his entire family depended on him and pleaded that they must do whatever necessary to save his leg. The doctors agreed to do their best but explained it would be a long and painful process and the odds were against it being successful. Peter’s mother Ida, insisted that Lena go to the hospital to be with him and she would look after Angelo while she was gone. Lena spent the next six months on a daily one-hour bus ride from Lakeview to the hospital to be by his side. She did not miss a single day. This is love and devotion. Peter underwent seven major surgeries before being released to recover at home with a full leg cast. He was such a valued employee at Ontario Hydro that his boss kept him on the payroll as long as he could while he underwent the grueling procedures. The insurance from the accident barely covered their living expenses and so Lena had to get a job to help make ends meet. Summers in Italy were a culturally enriching opportunity for his four children to be with the Arsié side of the family. So many cherished memories were made with their Italian cousins and Peter and Lena enjoyed reuniting with their childhood friends and other relatives that lived there. During these vacations the August holiday weekends would be spent picnicking and hiking in the nearby Dolomite mountains. Often there would be groups of friends, sometimes as many as forty heading up in a convoy to the best picnic spots. A camp would be set and food and wine would be in abundance. If there was a stream, they would place the watermelon in it to keep it cool. I recall one time when the current swept away a watermelon and we were all chasing the fruit as it raced down stream. There would be stories told about war battles that took place there and the relatives that were lost. There was much reminiscing of their childhoods in Poggiana, Ramon, and Rossano. It was a culturally enriching experience for the 4 Civiero children. The merriment would eventually lead to someone breaking out in song. It would usually be a folk song about the Alpini and everyone would join in. Peter loved to sing and you could hear his distinct voice harmonizing above the melody. This was the tradition and always a part of the adventure. Another fond memory was that of the festivals that honored the birthdays of Catholic saints. Each town had a church named after a patron saint and San Lorenzo was the patron saint of his home town church la parrocchia di San Lorenzo in Poggiana. Come the weekend of August 10th, the patron saint’s birthday, there would be a festival in the town. There were carnival rides, games and contests for 3 days. Dad would take us there and let us ride to our heart’s content. These carnivals were usually run by gypsies and safety did not necessarily take precedence over fun. You could actually sustain injuries in the bumper cars and some of us did! There were no merry-go-rounds but instead a ride called the “giostra catene.” The ride involved a number of single seats suspended by chains that would revolve in a circle at an impressive speed. With all but a small bar across your lap to hold you in, the ride would begin. But this was an interactive ride. You would take a partner. The person in the seat behind you would be the launcher, and the person in front would be the flyer. The objective was to have the launcher push you off with his feet at just the right time sending you flying outward towards the prize. The prize would be dangling from a post on a long line. It could be a rubber chicken, or a long furry tail. If you were able to reach out and capture the prize, you would get a free ride and could do it all over again. Lucky none of us got hurt! Thank you dad, papa, nonno, for the great life you worked so hard to provide for us and for your family. We will miss you dearly, but we know you are in a good place now preparing for your next big moose hunting adventure and we know this because, in Heaven, for every moose tag draw, you will be a winner.
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Published in Toronto Star on Feb. 20, 2021.