Skip to main content
lives lived

Vicki Bisaro

Vicki Bisaro: Mother. Seamstress. Volunteer. Citizen of the Year. Born May 6, 1917, in Posso, Italy; died Oct. 2, 2017, in Trail, B.C., of a stroke; aged 100.

All through the winter leading up to her 100th birthday, Vicki Bisaro told her family that she had only two wishes: to live to enjoy the celebration, then to have some time afterward to remember and relive it. Her prayers were answered. For nearly three months, Vicki happily reminisced with family and friends about the fantastic gathering of her far-flung clan who came to honour her. Always independent, Vicki was able to live alone in her own house until three weeks before her peaceful death.

Vicki was born Vittoria Colonello in Posso, Friuli, in northern Italy, during the tumult of the First World War, and lived there until she was 7. She spoke often of the hardscrabble life her family endured during those poverty-stricken years. With her mother and younger brother, she made the classic immigrant's journey from the port city of Genoa, Italy, to Pier 21 in Halifax, and then travelled by train to the British Columbia interior town of Trail, where her father had gone three years earlier to find work. Trail became her beloved, lifelong home.

Vicki went to school as a shy little girl with no English but was soon a top student. Unfortunately, she had to leave school after Grade 10 to earn a living. Her early skill at sewing blossomed into a career as a seamstress – Vicki sewed graduation and wedding dresses for almost every family in Trail, and continued to work into her 90s.

The smelter that dominates the landscape of Trail provided a living for generations of workers, particularly young Italian immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s. One of these was the handsome and charming Alessandro Bisaro, whom Vicki married in 1937. Together they raised four sons – Terry, Norman, Gordon and Raymond.

The couple worked hard but made sure to take time to play as well. There was dancing at the Columbo Hall in town, picnics by the Columbia River, skiing down the Red Mountain from Rossland to Trail, and family trips to the Okanagan. When Al died suddenly in 1980, Vicki faced up to her loss and found the strength to live a full life on her own. Her faith and her family were her support. She volunteered tirelessly for the Sisters of Columbo, the Catholic Women's League and the Trail Hospital Board. She was named Trail's Citizen of the Year in 2008.

Although none of her sons remained in Trail, she would drive thousands of miles over many mountain passes to visit them and their families. Well into her 80s, she would drive alone from Trail to Vancouver while her family breathed a collective sigh of relief at every safe arrival.

Vicki was a force of nature: a strong, forthright, optimistic, tireless bundle of energy to the end. She never hesitated to speak directly, which was sometimes refreshing and sometimes unsettling. A devout Catholic, she was also respectful of those who didn't share her views. As she slowed down in her last years, she loved to remember stories of the close-knit Italian community in Trail, never shying away from colourful details. And we can't forget her love of cards and her ability to quietly accept a losing hand: a definite family trait.

No matter what you called Vicki – Mum, Nonna, bis-Nonna – her family celebrates an exceptional life.

Margaret O'Brien is one of Vicki's daughters-in-law.

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go to

Interact with The Globe