Domenico Argento & Raimonda Gentile Groupe Paramount Inc.
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“Canada is the number one country in the World!”
Once the Second World War was over, life in Cattolica Eraclea, Agrigento resumed its ancient economic activity in agriculture. By then, the British, American and Canadian soldiers who had been based in Cattolica and other towns in Sicily had returned home, and emigration for Canada and the United States was enthusiastically reactivated by numerous Cattolicesi families. As a young man, Domenico Argento farmed the land with his father, growing in abundance wheat, chick peas, olives, almonds, grapes, figs, and a myriad of other fruit and vegetables. Raimonda Gentile fondly recalls being tutored by her young aunt who entered the convent when she was barely twelve years old. During these years, communication with the world and immigrant loved ones was enabled exclusively via the radio and correspondence, two essential transmitters of news, knowledge and culture.
“È stato proprio così”: A Transnational Courtship
One day, Raimonda’s mother received a photograph of Domenico Argento from a relative in Cattolica Eraclea. Raimonda’s mother understood that the implications for her daughter–should she agree to the marriage–were grave. They signified leaving her family in Sicily and beginning a new life thousands of miles away. A family meeting was arranged, and Raimonda was asked to respond to Domenico’s marriage proposal. Though she barely knew Domenico despite close relations between the families, sixteen-year old Raimonda replied: “Io sono contenta, mi sposo e ci vado.” (I am happy, I will marry him and join him.)
The marriage by proxy took place in Cattolica Eraclea on 31 January 1954 with Domenico’s father Liborio standing in for Domenico. Just 57 days later, Raimonda stepped on the S.S. Saturnia in Palermo to join her young husband in Montreal. Since their reunion upon her arrival on 16 March 1954, they have never been separated since.
Settling in Montreal
In the Argento and Gentile families, migration had historically been a regular occurrence. Years before her departure for Canada, Raimonda’s father had emigrated to Argentina. In the 1920s, Domenico’s Zio Michele had settled in York, Pennsylvania where his son Dominick Argento studied and trained to become a highly gifted vocal composer. Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize (1975), a Grammy award (2004) and other prestigious international awards, Dominick Argento has become America’s pre-eminent composer of lyric opera in the 20th century.
Sponsored by his Uncle Michele, Domenico Argento arrived together in Montreal with his uncles Giuseppe and Ignazio in 1951. They immediately set to work on Canadian farms. In the 1950s, Montreal was in full economic expansion : new highways, buildings, industrial infrastructures, housing projects, and other economic opportunities abounded. Domenico and his brothers-in-law, Calogero and Alfonso seized this historical conjuncture and formed the paving company Park Royal Paving in 1957. During these years, Domenico and Raimonda sponsored the immigration of their respective families, and realized the dream of reuniting everyone in Montreal.
By 1979 when Domenico Argento founded Paramount Paving Inc. (later renamed Groupe Paramount Inc.) with his brother Michele and his son-in-law Ross Gregory, Raimonda and Domenico and their four children, Angelina, Bobby, Anna and Ezio had firmly settled in Montreal’s West Island. For the Argento family, life in Baie d’Urfé was synonymous with the serenity, warmth, and breathless view of their home in Cattolica Eraclea. As their daughter Anna Argento Gregory later recalled, “It was a dream for all of us to live here in the West Island.”
Today, Domenico Argento is very proud of his sons Bobby and Ezio, his son-in-law Ross, and his nephew Bobby who are successfully running the company that he started decades ago.