Building contractor, artist, poet, nude floor washer. Born March 21, 1928, in Carbonera, Italy, died Nov. 29, 2012, in London, Ont., of Lewy body dementia, aged 84.
Giuseppe (Joe) Favaro was a human rainbow – a playful artist and hard-nosed construction business owner. He loved to laugh at Red Skelton. He regularly brought doughnuts to nuns at a convent. He loved his family, but looked forward to his children starting lives of their own so he could fulfill a long-time wish to “wash the kitchen floor naked.” Why? We never asked.
He was born in a small town in Northern Italy in the dark years between the world wars. His parents quickly left him at an orphanage. It was a blessing in disguise. Those early years were among his happiest, surrounded by nuns who doted on him and fostered his artistic talent.
But when he was 10 his parents reclaimed him, and introduced him to a world of poverty. As the clouds of war again dropped over Europe, Giuseppe was forced to beg door to door for food for his parents and five sisters. He hated it.
These were the roots that shaped my father’s future. He would spend his life searching for love, security and order, always vigilant against scarcity and need.
He struggled most of his teen years, and jumped at the chance to move to Venice when a sister who had moved there offered to take him in. He cleaned restaurants and washed dishes, eager to pursue a better life.
Italy was attempting to rebuild itself with foreign help and Giuseppe was hired as a movie projectionist for the U.S civilian services. They outfitted him with a van and film equipment to travel the countryside and entertain war-weary towns with American propaganda documentaries and Hollywood films.
In 1955, Giuseppe joined the stream of Italians emigrating to Canada. When he arrived at Halifax en route to London, Ont., the Anglo world transformed Giuseppe into “Joe.”
In 1957, he married our mother, Lidia, with whom he had been smitten since they met at a post office back home. Their partnership lasted 55 years and produced three children who, he would brag, were “made in Canada by Italian craftsmen.”
He worked hard – learned to bake bread, make bricks, design furniture. He studied to become an architectural draftsman, then migrated to construction work. In 1970, he started Favaro Contracting Ltd., which built post offices and school additions.
But his passion was always his art, elaborate, multicoloured works, some in oil, many in Magic Marker – each with a story.
He wrote poems in English and Italian that often ran for pages.
In his mid-70s, he began developing Lewy body dementia, an awful combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. It stole his vibrant personality bit by bit.
After he died, we found our dad’s treasures locked in a private drawer: scores of crayons and Magic Markers, $1,700 in toonies, copies of letters he wrote to Red Skelton.
To our surprise, we also found photos of him washing the floor naked. He had a huge grin on his face. He had set up a tripod to snap the shots himself.
We like to think this was his way of letting us know he was happy, having fulfilled all his dreams.
To submit a Lives Lived:
See the guidelines to share the life story of someone you’ve recently lost.