November 5th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 43
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Chris and Nini Peressini - A Book and a Film
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Kinnear and Herald Contributor photos
Nini Peressini- Calgary Highlanders- 1942
I first came to study the rich history of the Peressini family in a 2007 article I did for the Herald and in the process discovered a remarkable legacy of immigration, war service and close family ties. That is when I first met Nini Peressini and he shared the story of his nephew Anthony who died in 1938 in the Spanish Civil War with the International Brigades fighting for democracy in Spain.
Recently I learned of a special event to be held this November 15th at the Orpheum Theater that will share the profound memories of Nini in a film created by his grandson Darren Krywolt. Concurrent with this viewing will be the release of a very special book of stories that was done by Nini’s wife Christine. Darren has compiled a collection of her writing done for the little known Royal Bank’s Quill and Ledger publication that she penned between 1973 to 1982.
How the book part of this special event story came to be is quite profound and moving. Before Chris passed in 1997 she set aside a large plastic bank folder filled with her special stories and a note to be given to Darren. The note indicated that maybe someday her writings could be used as something to remember her by. A heartbroken Darren set aside his grandmother’s folder for seventeen years and only after his grandfather Nini passed last February did he feel compelled to retrieve it and explore its contents.
Darren was, as they say, “blown away” by Chris’s special writing style that left him laughing and crying and totally transfixed by her “As the Crow Flies” contributions to the Quill and Ledger. According to Darren, Chris had a passion for life which shone through in her writing and that she truly did appreciate the simple things and lived life to the fullest.
She alludes to this in one of her articles called “Buying Time” in which she says that unlike material things the real values of life are: “A sunny day, a singing bird, a gentle rain falling on a grassy meadow. Do you really stop to see the beauty that nature provides for us at no cost? A friendly hand clasp, a smile, a gentle touch, a favour done without looking for return, these things cost nothing…”
Amongst her many profound pieces the book has one entitled: “Surviving the Frank Slide – The Last Interview.” Chris sat down with Delbert Ennis, one of nineteen true survivors of the horrific Frank Slide He shared his first hand memories and observations with her just five days before he passed in November of 1975. Delbert’s views of how it was for he and his mother and father and four siblings no doubt will really put the whole experience into sharp focus for the curious reader.
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A little background on these two special people might be in order here. Chris and Nini Peressini spent most of their lives in the Crowsnest Pass. They worked as managers in a hotel in Coleman and then opened their own restaurant - The Satellite Cafe (now Popiel’s) - with their partners Rose and Gino Quarin. They moved to Hudson Hope, British Columbia for five years where Chris was Post Mistress for the camp. When they returned to the Crowsnest Pass Chris became Bellevue’s first female bank manager. She was respected and loved by many and was always supportive of her clients. Christine was the daughter of Louis and Margaret Bubniak and for a heart warming peak into her writing style one only has to check “Crowsnest and Its People Volume 1” in the family history section to find her rich and entertaining write up of the Bubniak family legacy.
Nini’s family lineage is a classic Canadian story, one of Italian immigration to Canada that includes his grandfather and grandmother Andrea and Lodovica and their five sons Augusto, Diodore (Doro), Romano, Giacomo (Nini’s father Jack) and Erminio. When I asked Nini seven years ago why they left Udine, Italy at the turn of the century he said simply: “Big family, little farm.”
Nini passed away last February at the age of ninety but left behind his own legacy. He worked in coal mining, construction, as a hotel manager and ambulance driver for the Pass Hospital. All four of his uncles and his father served in the Italian Army during World War One, four of them leaving Canada to do so. All four subsequently got married in Italy after their service and returned to Canada to start new families here in the Pass. Nini’s father Giacomo (Jack) served in Italy from 1914 to 1919. Nini was only 16 when methane gas took his dad’s life in the Greenhills Mine in Blairmore in 1941.
Nini, true to family tradition and values, enlisted when he was just eighteen and saw service with the Calgary Highlanders during the Second World War in Normandy and in Holland where he was part of some of the most horrific fighting imaginable. Darren tells me that Nini suffered from nightmares every night for the rest of his life and undoubtedly was one of thousands of silent victims of PTSD from back then, an affliction that continues to torment our soldiers to this day.
Darren said: “I think the best story is that this man never really told his story until now. He was flattered that I or anyone else would even be interested. The movie is presented like the man – simply. Sitting in his favorite chair and talking through his life with his grandson. It was not because his grandson already knew the story and just wanted to get it on film. It was because his grandson and even his children never knew the story as it had never been told.”
So mark November 15th on your calendar as an open invitation to see Albino Peressini’s (Oompa’s) Story on film and hear a select chapter read from Chris Peressini’s magical insights in the “As the Crow Flies- Stories of Life, Love, Family and the Simple Things” hardcover book. Only 75 copies of the first edition have been printed for the occasion and will be on sale at publisher’s cost that day. Orders will be taken at the theater for copies of Nini’s DVD and either of these one of a kind collections will cost you $25 (cash only).
November 5th ~ Vol. 84 No. 43
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