Five years ago today Stella Florio took her last breath. She was 93. She was a wife, a mom, a grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, sister and friend to many.
When I first met Rudy he took me to meet his parents. They lived in a humble two bedroom home that Stella’s father (Walter Yanko) built. He built a home for each of his children. He and his bride (Stella’s mother, Agata) immigrated to Canada when Stella was 6. There were 5 children in the family. Their grandchildren called them Baba and Dziadzia – pronounced zsazsa like Gabor). Stella always had something simmering on the stove and grampa put on the coffee; for all of her culinary prowess she totally sucked at making coffee. Their small kitchen was the heart of the home and grandma (everyone called Stella grandma) was the life blood. She could make magic happen in that tiny space with the little stove. And everyone was welcome.
Rudy would sit at the kitchen table with his dad and enjoy whatever was on the menu. When everyone was done Rudy would ask his mom to rub his head. She would stand behind his chair and gently massage his scalp. To this day it’s Rudy’s favourite soother. No one can duplicate his mom’s tender touch.
Stella was not overly educated; she stopped at grade 8 to work in the canning factory with her mother to help support the family. They walked for miles each day to and from the factory. Stella never had a driver license her whole life.
At the age of 14 she met her soul mate, Rudy, st the local dance hall. He was 19. Both were by all accounts terrific dancers and they enjoyed the various local clubs. Their meeting was kismet and they married on Valentines Day when Stella was 19. It was 1942. The middle of WW2. In 1943 Stella had the first of three children. She was a wonderful caring mother who doted on her children.
By the time I met Stella in 1987 she, like most grandparents, had wisdom and perfect hindsight vision. Her education was the school of life. She imparted advice and perspective in a soft and caring way. But there were times she was stern and most definitely in charge.
She loved her garden in particular roses. She could preserve anything in jars. She wore the cutest hats. Her sayings and expressions always bring a smile even today. Her playful blue eyes twinkled.
We miss her dearly.