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Folly Markle: Businesswoman. Mother. Friend. Centenarian. Born April 1, 1918, in Garson, Ont., died July 13, 2023, in Sudbury; of natural causes; aged 105.

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Folly MarkleCourtesy of family

Beniamino Scagnetti and Cristina Della Vedova immigrated from Northern Italy in 1913, settling in Garson, Ont., near Sudbury. Beniamino worked as a bricklayer, saved his earnings and started a grocery store. Their first child, Mafalda, was born five years later and named after Princess Mafalda of Savoy, the second daughter of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III. The long Italian name was a mouthful in an English-speaking world, so soon she was known as Folly, the oldest of what would become nine Scagnetti children.

Folly remembered walking to school on wooden sidewalks. She said the miners from Scotland and Wales who lived in the rooming house next door would sing to her as she walked by. She left school after Grade 8 (that was thought to be enough at the time) and as the eldest child, she went to work full-time in the family store. She filled out orders and put them into her father’s truck for delivery. She did some tough jobs, too, working as a butcher after hours. When her father bought the local wild blueberry crop, Folly and her siblings packed the berries to ship to Toronto.

Folly was the first face customers saw when they walked into the store and Joe Markle, who worked as a miner at Inco, fell in love with the pretty Folly Scagnetti. They married when Folly was 22. The couple had two children – Marilyn and Jerold – but the marriage didn’t last long. Folly stayed in Garson to have help with her children but in her early 30s she moved to Sudbury, in an area known as the Donovan, to run her own grocery store. It was courageous to be raising two children on her own and also to be an entrepreneur.

She remained close to her extended family, whether they were Scagnettis, Dellelces or Masciangelos. And one of the tragedies of living so long a life is that she outlived her children. Marilyn lived and worked in Sudbury, while JJ (Jerold) lived in Hawaii. Folly travelled quite a bit during her life including the many trips to visit with her son.

Folly enjoyed a close relationship with her sister Diane’s two daughters, Benita and Dena Dellelce. Her nieces took her shopping, to appointments, to dine at restaurants and exploring on little trips; during the last three years of her life they visited her daily. On one shoe-shopping trip to Toronto when Folly was 95, Benita and Folly left one of their favourite stores near the Royal York Hotel and headed toward the Eaton Centre over a kilometre away. Folly was a fast paced walker and Benita could hardly keep up.

In fact, despite coping with squamous skin cancer on her leg, Folly walked to and from all of her 33 radiation treatments at 103 even though she was offered a wheelchair. Folly never had an operation/surgery. Her doctor said her health was remarkable. They broke the mould when they made her, he used to say.

Folly was an independent woman who continued to drive for a few years after she moved into a retirement home at 95. She was always well-dressed and she loved to dance. Her family noticed she always had a younger boyfriend, too. “They keep dying on me,” Folly remarked.

Folly was a legend in Sudbury and on her 100th birthday, she became a centenarian cover girl. “Fabulous Folly. What’s her secret?” read the front page of Sudbury Living magazine.

Folly Markle was lucky; she was engaged, full of fun and happy until the end.

Benita Dellece is Folly Markle’s niece.

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