Mimmo Sisca’s legacy

(Canscene) — Unfortunately, it’s still fashionable among some Italian-Canadians to look at those of us of southern heritage as a sub-species. This applies especially to people from the region of Calabria which runs down to the toe of the Italian boot, about whom there seem to be as many jokes as those levelled at “Newfies.”

One only has to look at the life story of the late Domenico Sisca, or Mimmo as he was fondly known by his many friends and customers to find the true Calabrese spirit that has brought success and a place in the sun to so many immigrants from that region.

He landed in Canada with his wife in 1951, started working on the railroad in northern Ontario and then moved to Toronto where he began working as a gas jockey in a prime Esso location, at the same time studying a mechanic’s trade. To help support his wife and two children, he played accordion with a group on weekends.

Eventually he bought the station’s franchise until forced out when Imperial Oil wanted him to close his four service bays to make way for a convenience store. Complaints to Imperial flooded in, and I recall my own letter receiving a particularly vacuous response from Imperial’s president.

Eventually Mimmo just closed up shop and moved down the street opening a repair shop with son Vince and keeping his loyal staff of mechanics and just as important, his loyal customers.

But with financial success had also come came a sense of responsibility. Mimmo founded the Confederazione Calabrese a non-profit organization sponsoring student exchange between Canada and Calabria, fundraising for students to attend the University of Toronto and many other community and charitable services.

Today the organization carries on under the aegis of the Canadian Italian Benevolent and Cultural Foundation with provincial MPP Mario Sergio at the helm.

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