Piero Tomassini Tomassini et Frères Ltée
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“Our bonds with Italy are indelible.”
Passion, Drive, and Creativity in Italy and Canada
Perched on the hilltop of the Umbrian Mount Ingino under the watchful eye of the patron saint Sant’ Ubaldo, the etruscan city of Gubbio offers a kaleidoscope of histories to the curious observer. While its expansive countryside is inhabited by 21st century farmlands and industrial plants, Gubbio’s gothic-styled palazzi, and sinuous cobbled streets and piazze are etched in the Middle Ages. During the late 19th and 20th century’s mass migration movements, many Gubbini men, women, and entire families migrated to Germany, France, Switzerland, the United States and Canada.
At the end of World War II, while his brothers tended to the land in Gubbio as affituari alongside his father, Guglielmo Tomassini, Ferdinando immigrated to the steel mills in France in reaction to the chaos of the war and the misery of “eating every two days.” Twenty-two year-old Ferdinando found work in the mines of Aciérie de Wendel in Hayange, located in the French north-east region of Lorraine. Here, wages were good, but work was hard and dangerous. The bulk of his earnings were sent immediately to his father in Gubbio. With these and his brothers’ earnings in Gubbio, his father was finally in a position to accept the padrone’s offer to sell him the family property. The large Tomassini family had succeeded in becoming landowners in their native Gubbio.
Yet, Ferdinando’s thirst for adventure remained wanting.
Three Brothers, a Skill and a Vision
In 1951, Ferdinando was joined by his brother, Antonio to travel across the Atlantic. Through Canada’s recently introduced Bulk-Labour Program, both men were hired to work as farm labourers in Quebec. Their knowledge and skills did not go unnoticed, and within a few months, they were hired to work for Creagan & Archibald, a company in Pointe-aux-Trembles that specialized in the fabrication of precast concrete elements for bridges and buildings. For Ferdinando and Antonio Tomassini—followed by their youngest brother, Umberto—Montreal soon became their permanent home, and by 1961, the three brothers had incorporated their masonry firm, U. Tomassini et Frères Ltée. The woman Ferdinando had left behind in Gubbio was never far from his thoughts, and following an intense correspondence, Ferdinando Tomassini and Anna Maria Giacometti were married by proxy at the Chiesa Santa Maria del Rosario in Monteluiano, Gubbio. Shortly after in 1955, Anna Maria travelled on the S.S. Andrea Doria, the same ship that would sink one year later, on her way to Halifax to meet her young husband.
Forging a Legacy of Combining Art and Masonry in Montreal
In light of Ferdinando’s son, Piero, perennial fascination with Italian art and architecture—foreshadowed by his recollection of climbing Pisa’s impressive leaning tower as a young boy—the concept of restoring art works in masonry began to take shape in the late 1980s. As 1994-95 approached, the company’s ownership underwent some changes: one of the brothers, Umberto, was bought out, and the two remaining brothers, Antonio and Ferdinando renamed the company Tomassini et Frères Ltée. Piero Tomassini, now a civil engineer, leads the firm with a special interest in the preservation, restoration, and adaptive re-use of vernacular masonry buildings, commercial buildings and utilitarian structures in Quebec. With the support and ingenuity of the entire Tomassini family on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the firm has woven strong affective, cultural, and commercial ties across time and distance. In this family, distance has reinforced relations, and it has made the heart grow fonder over time.