Remembering Orlando Bruno
I have five sparkling red jars marked “Mr. Bruno’s Cherry Syrup” left in the pantry, the result of Orlando Bruno’s generosity, sharing the bounty of his fruit trees with his neighbours. Now those trees have lost their loving caretaker.
Mr. Bruno passed away on August 5th, after 64 years in McCauley. He was born in Calabria Italy in 1931 and came to Canada in the 1950s.
I met Mr. Bruno shortly after moving to McCauley in 2010. We wanted an apple tree in our new front yard, and I had heard of Mr. Bruno’s reputation when my daughter Diana interviewed him for the Firewood Institute, which was collecting stories of people who practiced sustainable agriculture in the city. My partner Gary and I knocked on his door, after considering the lock on the gate and a big “Beware of Dog” sign posted on the fence (no dog to be seen). He was a walking encyclopedia on gardening.
He worked for years at the University of Alberta as a maintenance man, all the while sharing his knowledge of tree grafting with professors and students, and raising four sons with his beloved wife Carmela.
Mr. Bruno got started in Edmonton with the help of another McCauley giant, Frank Spinelli, who provided a job as a chef in a camp near Hinton, giving him time to learn English. As his son shared in a moving eulogy at Mr. Bruno’s memorial service, he worked there for 18 months, cooking by day and cutting hair by night and saving money to eventually move to his second house in McCauley where he filled his triple lot with apples, cherries, vegetables, and tomatoes, and his cupboard with a good red wine which he offered to anyone who dropped by.
At his memorial service, a son shared how his father, with a grade two education, prospered and balanced his wife’s “generosity and warmth” with his “frugality and strictness” as I’m sure you’d need with four sons. His life took a downturn when Carmela died in 1995 but as his son quoted, “complaining doesn’t change anything,” and he carried on until he broke his ankle this spring and charmed the EMS staff who came to his rescue.
His trees and his knowledge will continue to bear fruit for years to come, but the neighbourhood will miss his large personality and presence in the big corner lot.
Sara lives in McCauley.