Lucia Bevilacqua ‘grabbed life by the lapels’.
By Hilary Duff
For 40 years, a beautiful red rose has climbed up the front of Lucia Bevilacqua’s home near the Central Experimental Farm.
She cared for it tenderly. Every fall she would lay it on the ground and, with the help of her family, protect it from the cold winter to come. Every spring she would raise it up to face the warming sun.
In a life full of many experiences, Lucia had three principal passions: her family, her faith and her gardens, both vegetable and floral.
These passions were central to the routines of her life, but those routines have been broken forever by a tragic accident on a busy road on a clear day.
According to her daughter, Anna, Lucia had been to church for the celebration of the Immaculate Conception on the morning of Dec. 8. She returned home to a meal with her two sons and, after cleaning up, put on her coat and headed out for the brisk walk that she always enjoyed.
Lucia was very fit and energetic, always in good health. Her daughter credits that, in part, to her love of garlic, the aromatic bulb with many health benefits. Lucia always included some garlic in her vegetable garden. She “wasn’t your regular 87-year-old,” Anna says.
On that Thursday afternoon, exactly what happened during Lucia’s walk, is still not entirely clear, but Anna is certain her mother would have obeyed all the traffic signals before starting to cross Merivale Road. She did not make it to the other side. Instead, she was struck and killed by a garbage truck. The accident remains under investigation.
The mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend was remembered this past Tuesday with a funeral and memorial service where it was standing room only in the room. Lucia’s husband, Beniamino, died in 1988. There are four children: Maria, Rinaldo, Eolo and Anna.
“Everyone she met always remembers her,” Anna says.
Anna also remembered how her mother would always assign each of her four children a task on her to-do list. It was through these activities that the family stayed close and connected.
“She was a constant in all our lives,” Anna says. “She was definitely the glue that held us all together.”
As well as having a feisty, funny side, Anna’s mother was independent, active and generous. Lucia Bevilacqua had sponsored a World Vision family for the past 18 years and was also very involved with helping the active seniors community known L’Eta d’Oro at Villa Marconi, a long-term care facility on Baseline Road.
“It was a terrible end to such a beautiful life,” says Adrianna DiFranco, a great niece who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “She was such a sweet and loving person who really enjoyed life and grabbed it by the lapels.”
In a telephone conversation, DiFranco fondly remembers Bevilacqua’s great sense of humour and her “exuberant catchphrase.”
“She always said, ‘o Dio, Dio, Dio,’ which basically means, ‘oh lord, lord, lord.’ We always used to tease her for that,” DiFranco says with a chuckle.
Lucia was active at the Villa Marconi. She took part in the weekly bingo sessions and always attended the monthly lunches, says Dominico Ricci, the centre’s director.
Ricci would occasionally drive Bevilacqua home after these events.
“She was very respectable and didn’t want to burden or bother anyone,” he says. “She was very independent for an 87-year-old.
It was two weeks ago that Ricci last drove her home. After the ride, Bevilacqua joked that “I’m not going to tell you thank you anymore,” since she was known to be overly appreciative.
Ricci was driving to Villa Marconi on Dec. 8 when he saw flashing emergency lights at the corner of Merivale and Kirkwood Avenue, an intersection that he describes as “tricky and dangerous.”
Later that evening, Ricci discovered his friend had been involved in the accident.
“Reflecting back on Thursday, I still can’t believe it,” he says. “She was one of our own, and, when I told the staff members here, most of them started to cry. They knew her very well.”
Anna says her mother was most proud of the impressive garden she had cultivated at her Mayview Avenue home.
The crowning glory of the garden was the rose bush, which Anna says grew up the entire front wall of her mother’s house.
She describes the careful process Bevilacqua went through annually to “put the garden to sleep” and awaken it in the spring.
“Next summer the roses will be there, but she won’t be,” Anna says.