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Kimberley Families

The Fabro Family

as told by Al, Bruno and Milo

The Fabro name is familiar with most everyone in Kimberley. The family's origin goes back to 1889, when Guiseppe Fabro married Lucia Bissaro in the province of Udine, in Northern Italy. Before leaving Italy, he resided in Rome where he was a baker for the Vatican.

Mr. and Mrs. Fabro Sr. and family came to Canada in the early 1900's. They settled in the thriving community of Lille, Alberta, where they opened and operated a bakery shop.

The town of Lille (now a historical site) was situated eight miles north of the Frank slide. The mine in Lille was owned by the West Canadian Collieries and was short lived, as the company moved its operation to the main rail line of Blairmore.

Mr. Fabro re-located his bakery and built his home and shop immediately west of Blairmore in the exact location of the present shopping centre.

The Fabro family consisted of seven children: four sons and three daughters. Alphonse, Cyrus, and sisters Anita and Carmen were born in Italy. Bruno and Frances were born in Lille and Milo was born in Blairmore.

Due to hard times, Mr. Fabro eventually gave up the bakery business in Blairmore and one in Hosmer and was then employed by the West Canadian Collieries until his death in 1930.

In 1915, AI, the eldest son, volunteered for overseas service. He spent twenty-six months in the trenches of Austria and another fourteen months as a prisoner of war in Germany. This part of his life remains vivid in his memory, but best forgotten.

He returned to Blairmore and went to work for Mr. E. Pozzi who owned a construction company and retail lumber business. Al received his basic knowledge of the building trade at this time.

In February 1925, he came to Wycliffe as a timekeeper for the Otis Staples Lumber Company. When one of the Staple brothers had a fatal 'ski accident in 1928, the company which had operated out of Wycliffe since the 1900's, ceased operations. Al stayed on to handle their Kimberley business as a bookkeeper. This he did under the supervision of Alan Graham, the well known Cranbrook lawyer. It took eight years to liquidate the many holdings held by the Otis Staples Lumber Co.

In 1936, the Otis Staples Lumber yard in Kimberley was jointly purchased by Al Fabro and the Cranbrook Sash and Door Co. and became known as the Fabro Building and Supply Co. Ltd. In 1945, Al then purchased the interests held by Cranbrook Sash and Door Co.

Soon afterwards Milo entered into the business. Due to a lumber shortage in 1946 the Fabros decided to expand. They started the operation of a small sawmill at Summers Subdivision. Fabco Forest Products Ltd., is still operating from the same site.

Al had the foresight, at this time, to purchase the former Tony Zak building on the corner of Wallinger and Ross Street. From this location they operated a Marshall Wells Store for twenty-five years. They very recently sold this building to Repp Agencies. This provided Fabros with the opportunity to expand and improve their building supply, lumber and hardware centre which is located on Jennings Ave. at the original Otis Staples lumber yard location.

During his early years, Al studied construction through the Chicago Technical College programme for one year. He has been interested in all aspects of community work, and been actively involved over the years as a member of the Kimberley Board of Trade, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director of Crestbrook Timber, Trustee on the board of Kimberley and District Hospital Society.

He has been a Rotary member since 1949 and District Governor of Rotary International for 1964-65. In conjunction with Kimberley's first Snow Fiesta in 1961, Al was presented with "Citizen of the Year" award.

Al married Benvenuta Pozzi, the daughter of his former employer in Blairmore. They have one son, Donald, who is active in both Fabro Building and Supply Co. and Fabco Forest Products Ltd. Don is presently operating manager of the lumber mill. He married Marjorie Biddlecombe and they have three children: Daniel, David and Patricia. Dan and David are presently working at the sawmill and Patricia is a student at McKim Jr. High.

When Don was married, Al gave his daughter- in-law, Marjorie, a Tennessee Walker horse as a wedding gift. This has become more than a hobby as they have started to breed them. Marjorie and daughter, Patti Ann, have won many ribbons and trophies for horsemanship. Marjorie is also a talented artist and does oil painting on wood.

Bruno came to Kimberley in 1927. He was co- owner of the Kimberley Transfer Co. for many years. His first steady work as a clerk, was with F. M. Thompsons Grocery and Hardware Store in Blairmore. When a slow-down took place at the mine, he was asked to take on delivery duties as well. He could see that progress would be slow. This prompted him to take a correspondence course in accounting.

At this time he met a young nurse at the Blairmore Hospital. He later married Selma Lamb and they had one son, Ronald. Soon afterwards, Bruno received word from brother Al that since a Mr. James McGuire was leaving, the accoun- ting position at the Kimberley Transfer was available, and Bruno was accepted for the job. Selma and young son, Ron, came to Kimberley to live in January 1928. R. E. "Dick" Burke had a half interest in the Transfer business with W. E. Worden of Cranbrook owning the other half, until he sold it to Armand Maurice.

In 1929 Imperial Oil Limited established a bulk plant in Kimberley and Dick Burke was appointed as their Agent.

In January, 1931, Burke and Maurice sold the Transfer business to Bruno and George Wanuk, Sr. The office was located between the Sullivan Hotel and the C. P. R. station. In 1933, Dick Burke decided to leave Kimberley to operate a hotel in Corbin, B. C. He and a Mr. Harry Morrison owned the Sullivan Hotel which they sold to John and Sam Port. Dick Burke was also the Kimberley representative for McPhersons Funeral Service. This position he left for Bruno which he held from 1933 to 1955.

Bruno recalls the many problems in the Transfer business during the war years. Coal was in short supply and so was manpower. Rather than have homes without fuel, they would deliver a quarter or a half ton at a time. This was an added expense to the company, but it was necessary to assist as many customers as possible. Eventually coal was replaced by fuel oil as oil-burning equipment became available, followed by natural gas. By January 1965, after the lengthy illness of Mr. Wanuk, the partnership was dissolved. The office building was removed and St. Marys Avenue opened up to traffic. The Kimberley Transfer Co. became past history.

Bruno continued as Agent for Imperial Oil Ltd. until July 1969 when he retired, after an association of some forty years.

He did not stay retired for long, as in 1970 he was persuaded to act as a Director and President of Kimberley Building Products Ltd. He resigned this position in 1973.

His wife Selma had passed away in 1956. His son Ron married Pearl Hansen, and they had five children: Sandra, Craig, Margaret, Michelle and Stephen. Little Craig passed away at four years of age, when he was struck by a passing vehicle. The remaining children helped fill the void for Bruno after Selma's death.

In 1962, Bruno married Winifred "Peggy" Mellor. She is presently employed in the Public Health Unit in the Home Care Program. Previously, she was with the J. F. Haszard Clinic for twenty-one years.

Bruno's son, Ron, passed away in 1970. Ron was versatile and did much to enhance local entertainment. He had a fine singing voice and also acted as Master of Ceremonies on many occasions.

Bruno is a member of Sacred Heart Church. He has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for over fifty years. He and Eddie Taylor are the two remaining Charter Members of the Rotary Club which has been active in Kimberley since 1941. Bruno has served Rotary as Director, Treasurer, Secretary, and President in 1960-61. He was elected on Kimberley's first City Council and served during the first four difficult years after incorporation.

During his business years, Bruno was associated with the Retail Merchants Association, Board of Trade, and Chamber of Commerce. He is now retired and in his leisure time enjoys doing some of the things he always wanted to do .. Following a trip to England, Scotland and France last year, he and Peg are now planning a trip to Europe, including Italy.

Cyrus, the second eldest brother married Anna Pozzi of Blairmore and sister of Mrs. Al Fabro. He was master Mechanic with West Canadian Collieries and Scurry Rainbow of Blairmore. He is presently retired and he and Anna still live in Blairmore.

The eldest sister, Anita, passed away in the mid forties. Carmen still lives in Blairmore and enjoys good health in her mid eighties. Her eldest son, Bruno Rinaldi, is very well known in Kimberley and district. He has been a resident here since the mid thirties. He is co-owner of Kimberley Plumbing and Heating with Lloyd Larsen. Bruno Rinaldi married Marie Jacobson, also of Kimberley, and they have three children: Donna, Gerry and Christine.

Frances, the youngest sister, came to Kimberley in 1931 and did office work at the Kimberley Transfer. She married Robert (Bert) Fisher, also a long time resident. They had three childr~Anita, Brent and Frances. Anita was fataUr injured in a car accident in Calgary at the age of twenty. The Fishers are retired and now live in Kelowna.

In 1934 Milo, the youngest member of the family, moved to Kimberley with his mother. Mrs. Fabro, sister Frances and Milo lived in Lower Blarchmont. A few years later, after a brief illness, Mrs. Fabro Sr. passed away.

Milo's first steady employment was underground with the Company. He worked as a miner with Bill Jones who still resides in Kimberley. Bill's father-in-law was their shift boss and the unforgettable Bill Lindsay was Mine Superintendent at that time.

Milo married Fiorina DeCecco of Coleman in 1937. In 1940 he left underground and went to work for his brother, AI, at the Building and Supply Co. as clerk, plumber and construction worker. Five years later, in 1945, he joined Al in business.

These were very trying times, due to manpower and material shortages and sawmill breakdowns. Lack of skilled loggers and construction workmen was also compounded by insufficient working capital. Only the desire to accept this challenge ultimately brought a degree of success to all operations. Long strenuous working days coupled with late night studies eventually provided more of the required knowledge for the advancement of construction sawmill and other operations.

Milo, too, was very community-minded, with special interest in sports. He was President of the Kimberley Athletic Association, Western International Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey Association and Director of Canadian Amateur Hockey Association.

Milo was Zone Chairman of Lions International and is a Charter Member and Past President of the Kimberley Lions Club, along with Clarence Backstrom, Bruno Rinaldi and. Bill Coupland.

Milo was presented with the twenty-five year perfect attendance, and Lions International Zone Chairman achievement certificate. He is also the recipient of the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association's Meritorious Award. Milo is one of the original members of the Bavarian Society and presently serves as chairman of the Kimberley Economic Development and Planning Commission.

Milo and Fiorina have three sons: Robert the eldest, and twin sons, Alan and Colin. Robert married Janet Forrest of Toronto. He is Vice- President of All State, Canada. Alan married Virginia Hallman of Boston, Georgia. He is Manager of Government Sales for John Deere Lt? in Grimbsy, Ontario. They have one child, Alison.

Colin is with the Department of External Affairs. He has had some very eventful postings overseas. Firstly in Israel and Cyprus and more recently during the uprisings, in Teheran, Iran. He is presently at the Canadian Embassy in Lima, Peru, as First Secretary and Vice-consul.

The Fabros derive satisfaction from the many fine buildings which they constructed throughout the years. Very noteworthy is the Kimberley Arena, Curling Rink, and first Ski Lift, also the many residential and commercial structures in Kimberley and district which they have constructed over the years. AI's favorite building is the Presbyterian Church on Boundary St. Set against the hill, it gives an appearance of stately grandeur. The most recent building is the Kimberley Library and Museum.

The Fabros have contributed much towards the economic and physical growth of Kimberley over the last half century.

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