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elevated MpEG4 Celestina Belluz (née Zanette) was born in Azzano Decimo, Friuli in Italy, on May 15, 1922, shortly after the end of the First World War. Her parents, Maria and Paolo, were farmers, and Celestina spent her childhood helping around the house and tending to their property — caring for the pigs and chickens, planting the garden, cooking, and washing clothes.

elevated MpEG4 By grade five, Celestina had left school. And by early adolescence, she’d identified the man she wanted to marry: Gino Belluz, the eldest son of farmers who lived half a kilometer down the road. They started dating, but their plans to marry were upended by the Second World War. Gino was drafted into the Italian army in 1940. Celestina stayed behind, living in fear of being targeted in the frequent bombs and strafings raining down around their homestead.

elevated MpEG4 When the war ended, in 1945, Gino returned to Azzano and married Celestina on November 17. A year later, their first son Renzo was born. With Europe’s economy in tatters following the wars, Celestina and Gino decided to leave Italy, dreaming of the prospect of an education and a better life for the next generation. Gino departed for Toronto in 1950, and a year later, Celestina and Renzo took the long boat ride over, first arriving in Halifax and then Toronto.

elevated MpEG4 In Canada, Gino started working as a laborer, and to earn extra money, Celestina turned their home into a residence for boarders who had also recently arrived from Italy. Again, her job was caring for the home and people around her: buying copious amounts of food, cooking meals, and mending and washing their clothes. In 1955, their second son, Paul, was born.

elevated MpEG4 By then, Gino and Celestina were firmly embedded in Toronto’s Italian community, life-long members of the Famee Furlane and Azzanese Clubs for the city’s Friulian families. They’d achieved the kind of economic stability they went to Canada hoping for. When Gino finally retired, in the mid-80s, they split their time among their home in Toronto, farm and cottage north of the city, and condo in Florida.

elevated MpEG4 Through all this hard work, Celestina developed a legendary discipline. She organized the days of each week around a fixed schedule of chores: shopping for groceries on one day, sewing on another, baking, cleaning. Beginning in the late 1970s, before it was fashionable, she’d wake up every morning to exercise, and later added a blended mixture of raw fruits and vegetables to her routine. (She adhered to that program for more than four decades, into her late 80s.) She also perfected the art of gardening and sewing, even making complicated Chanel clothing patterns by hand.

elevated MpEG4 Above all, it’s her cooking that her family will remember. Celestina expressed her deep love of family through her meals. She’d set the table every night for a multi-course feast, one that her husband, kids, and grandkids would eagerly anticipate. The table would fill with home-made gnocchi and wine, involtini or chicken cacciatore, perfectly seasoned vegetables grown from her farm and garden, always followed by a cheese plate and fresh fruit. She relished hosting big celebrations — Christmases with mortadella-stuffed capons and home-made panettone; Easters with raisin-specked frittole. She taught her children, daughters-in-law, and grandkids her tricks around the kitchen, and through these recipes her memory will live on.

elevated MpEG4 On May 15, 2020 — exactly 98 years after she was born — Celestina died of Covid-19 in Toronto, 22 years after Gino’s death. She leaves behind her sons Renzo and Paul, their wives Janet and Jean, as well as five grandchildren (Richard, Christopher, Julia, David, and Mark), and three great-grandchildren, (Beckett, Ava, and Theodor).

elevated MpEG4 Due to the pandemic, the family will have a small, outdoor burial service next to the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery. In lieu of flowers and a visitation, if you would like to recognize Celestina, please consider a donation to the Villa Leonardo Gambin Front Line Fund, which was established to provide extra support for the healthcare workers who are caring for our seniors in this very difficult and hazardous work environment.

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