By Charlie Hodge
I was engaged in another conversation when the news was first nibbled in my ear and so it did not really register. By the time it did, the deliverer was long gone.
The original chat was actually more about me listening to someone else rant on the latest moronic actions of Donald Trump. If I had been talking it would of been me doing the ‘ranting’. I admit that the man makes my blood boil.
I was being informed how Trump had fired Jeff Sessions as Attorney General replacing him with Matthew Whitaker apparently a long time Trump Loyalist (duh – ya think?). Naturally it was all fallout from the previous day’s election which saw Democrats take the Whitehouse. What most likely bothered The Donald most was that 99 women now sat in the House of Representatives, a number never reached before.
The second conversation rocked my world – not the sort one enjoys hearing. It was about another person who also would not likely be impressed with the shenanigans going on to the south. Joe Iafrancesco was never one to hold back from telling others what he thought. In fact, he would often go out of his way to make sure you heard what he had to say. Joe was never in a room long or a conversation for any length of time before he would have clarified a thought or two. Sadly Kelowna lost Joe to cancer last week.
Born in Sepino, Italy on March 19, 1947 Joe spent his childhood and early teen years on the farm in Italy before immigrating to Canada in 1963. He arrived with the attitude that “anything is achievable with hard work, dedication and a vision”.
That determination helped him through his high school education and the Canadian dream of being his own boss. At just 16 Joe kick-started his dream with a weekend shoe-shine business, followed by a janitorial service, then 30 years of employment with Canadian Pacific Railway as a Conductor/Brakeman.
The only one to slow Joe down was the girl who stole his heart, Bianca Russo who he married in Kelowna in 1976. Bianca and Joe enjoyed life on their hobby farm in and managing their commercial and residential properties.
Joe was extremely active in Kelowna well known for promoting anything Italian. A very social person who made connections wherever he went and with whomever he met Joe even tried municipal politics, though he fell short three times.
I had the pleasure of getting to know him better during one of those attempts back in 2006. We had many a chuckle and debates during that event. Joe was always open to new ideas and friendships and was the first to organize and volunteer his time. Never afraid to help, Joe organized numerous charity golf tournaments and several fund-raising efforts for earthquake relief.
Joe said he ‘retired’ in 1997 to enjoy more golf and travel, vintage cars, their hobby farm and his passion of service to the community. However retiring was impossible for Joe who volunteered for many services including Folkfest, Downtown Kelowna Association, The Kelowna Canadian Italian Club (president for many years), Knights of Columbus, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, National Congress of Italian Canadians, Uptown Rutland Business Association, Central OK Crime Stoppers, Lions Club as well as many other volunteer organizations. He was also involved with fundraising for the Italian wing of the National Museum of Civilization (Ottawa) and the 2001 opening of Pier 21 (Halifax).
When you share and care as much as Joe did, others sometimes noticed. His recognition awards were many and include the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), finalist for the City of Kelowna’s Fred Macklin Award (1989 and 2000) and the Central OK Crime Stoppers Volunteer of the Year Award (1998). Other appreciation awards include the Ben Lee Park Society and the Multicultural Society.
Joe touched many lives and will continue to do so with his very substantial donations to the KGH Cancer Care fund and to JoeAnna’s House.
Prayers will be held tonight (Friday, Nov. 9,) at 6 pm and a Funeral Mass on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 11 am both at Immaculate Conception.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Kelowna General Hospital Cancer Care Fund, www.kghfoundation.com/priority-need/cancer-care.
Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.springfieldfuneralhome.com My heartfelt condolences to Bianca and family. I will miss your laughter and kind heart, Joe.