NATIONAL CONGRESS OF ITALIAN-CANADIANS
NATIONAL CAPITAL DISTRICT
"Preserving Our Past . . . Enriching Our Future"
ALFREDO MENCHINI 1879-1916
On Nov. 1, it will be 100 years since the death of my grandfather at the battle of the Somme in France. As his grandson, I and many members of his family, felt a burning need as proud Canadians to honour his memory and that of his wife and children.
Alfredo (Alfred) Menchini was born in Bagni di Lucca, Tuscany, Italy in 1879 and immigrated to London, England, where he met and married Rosina (Rose) Ingolotti. They immigrated to Ottawa in 1906.
Alfred’s trade was a stonemason and sculptor, but he worked in the bush around Ottawa and in construction. He was one of the founders of St. Anthony church and his family back in Italy provided the marble for its altar.
When the First World War broke out, he enlisted in the 77th Canadian infantry battalion and trained at Rockcliffe park. It was during this time he and other members of the 77th assisted Ottawa firefighters in fighting the fires of the Parliament buildings and the Prime Minister of the day, Robert Borden, thanked them for saving many valuable paintings and precious volumes from the Library of Parliament.
The 77th left for the British Isles in 1916; in France Alfred was transferred to the 38th, which had already tasted warfare. Alfred had been in the trenches for four months when he was killed by a German artillery shell with three of his comrades. He is buried in Adanac Military Cemetery in France.
The death notice in the Ottawa Citizen stated that he had two brothers serving in the Italian army and one was later killed. Rose had a brother in the British navy, another was a sergeant in the army and an uncle was with the British in German East Africa. Her father was a Crimean War veteran for the British. The notice also stated Rose had seven children: the youngest a baby of six weeks and the oldest 13 years.
Many families suffered because of the First World War and this family had their share. Rose lost the house at 631 Rochester St. due to the late payment of Alfred’s military pension; the two oldest children, Tony and Harry, were sent to work and Maude, Margaret, Eleanor and Joe were sent to the St. Patrick orphanage where they suffered mistreatment. To add to Rose’s misery, baby Alfred died in the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 and was buried in a pauper's grave.
It would have been easy for the family to fall apart; but they pulled together in the Village and contributed to Ottawa and Canada as proud Canadians.
Rose assisted many Italians with translations at St. Anthony church
Tony supported the family as a contractor and was a member of the Knights of Columbus
Harry was a Golden Gloves champion, member of the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame, trained many in the Village and was a trainer for the original Ottawa Senators hockey club
Maude was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary in the Canadian Legion for 60 years that helped many veterans after the Second World War
Margaret ran a restaurant in the Glebe with her husband Joe
Eleanor was the first president of the St. Anthony Ladies Aid to help Second World War veterans and the needy
Joe served in the Governor General's Foot Guards during the Second World War, his battalion liberated Normandy, France, Belgium and Holland; he was a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders for 40 years and the Chateau Laurier for 35 years
If you should enter St. Anthony church, look to the first glass window on your left: It depicts the sacrifices of our soldiers in both world wars (villagers). The soldier’s guardian angel is arrayed as a warrior of the Roman legion, holding in his arms the body of Alfred Menchini. The inscription below lists the names of 21 young men of the parish who gave their lives for their country in the Second World War.
From Alfred’s enlistment papers, it states he had a tattoo on his inner forearm of clasped hands that stated, “don’t forget me”.
Grandfather, we will never ever forget you.