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The Giammaria Family

This is the first in a series of Italian Canadian family-story articles. All information will be catalogued, itemized, and stored in our Italian Canadian Archive. We invite any family wishing to share their story to call IL POSTINO, and make an appointment.


It was minus 39 on that bitterly cold January day when Luciano and I arrived at the Giammaria home on Prince of Wales Drive in Ottawa.

Bruno Giammaria greeted and welcomed us into the warmth and understated elegance that is their home.

The sun streamed in through the back windows, adding natural light and warmth to the surroundings. Two brave ducks paddled in the water below as I gazed from their family room up and down the river. The mist was rising and curling like thick white smoke, and although part of the river was open and the water running, the ice had formed on either bank, adding to the majestic beauty that is the Giammaria's back yard.

Chatting over steaming hot espresso with freshly baked biscotti, Bruno shared his family history.

Bruno was born on January 12th, 1940, the third of seven children. He grew up on his family's farm at Contrata Valiana, at the base of Patrica, Frosinone, Italy.

On May 11, 1957, Bruno's parents Luigi and Amelina, and six of their seven children set sail for Halifax from Naples on the vessel Saturnia. Their eldest child Ester, married and expecting her first child, stayed in Italy, later joining the rest of the family in Ottawa.

New to Ottawa and not speaking English, Bruno, aged 17, went to work at La Torren Hotel on Elgin Street. His job included peeling potatoes and carrots, and washing dishes. He attended the High School of Commerce at Carling and Bronson in the evening. Bruno worked at the hotel for two months with very little pay, but was told he would receive a $2.00 raise within the week. The week came and went, and when Bruno questioned his supervisor, he was told his raise would come "next week". He was so upset; he left this position and never returned.
Father Jerome Ferraro of St. Anthony's Parish found Bruno a job as a labourer with Cummings Construction. Using only a shovel and a wheelbarrow, Bruno and Carmelo Gruppi were responsible for spreading gravel for the ground floor of Brookfield High School. Bruno worked for Cummings for two years, until Father Jerome found him a better position as a plumber's apprentice with Edge Ltd.

When Edge Ltd. declared bankruptcy in 1961, Bruno went to work with Baker and Jules Plumbing Contractor at Central Park Lodge located at 2374 Carling Avenue. When this project was finished he began working for Crump Mechanical.

In 1963, Bruno went to work in the Bahamas. The money was good, but Bruno was lonely. He returned to Ottawa after three months, and went back to work for Crump Mechanical at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

In 1964, Bruno received his plumbing and heating license, and supervised a laboratory at Tunney's Pasture. Later, he was responsible for the Kempville School.

Bruno obtained his Master License before his third project at Deloro Stelite Foundry in Belleville, and worked at Crump Mechanical for a total of eight years.

Bruno's life changed when he returned to Ottawa in 1968. Romeo Toscano, a supervisor at J. Lewan Mechanical offered him the position of director of plumbing and heating for the building on Kent Street.

Giuseppe (Joe) Fagnano, who worked with ceramic tiles, asked Bruno if he would like to meet Norma Cellini, a lady from his wife Maria's home town of Sulmona. Norma lived on Rochester Street with her aunt and uncle, and they began to date.

Bruno and Norma were married August 2nd, 1969. Their first home on Clifton Road was a wedding present from Bruno's parents. Bruno and Norma have three children, Luigi, Paolo, and Patrizia.

On May 1st, 1971, Bruno's Plumbing and Heating opened, operating from their home on Clifton Road. Among Bruno's accomplishments, he became the "first Italian plumber's apprentice"; the "first Italian plumber", and the "first Italian Plumbing Contractor in Ottawa".

Bruno's Plumbing and Heating's new location officially opened in 1975 at 275 Richmond Road.
Bruno and Norma purchased their property on Prince of Wales where they live today in 1977.
Ten years later the new house was built, and Bruno conceived the idea for his "invention". For 15 years, they saved energy, as well as approximately $1000.00 a year on their hydro bill.

In his basement, Bruno explained his hot water recirculating system. When a tap is turned on anywhere in the house, "almost" instant hot water runs from the tap. In a traditional water line, it can take approximately 40 seconds before cold turns to hot water. Hot water is continually recirculated through pipes, and the water then returns to a heater via a series of ball and check valves. In the past, Bruno's invention attracted the interest of city officials to determine if this is practical to install in Ottawa Community Housing projects.

The initial installation costs vary, but to equip a 2,000 square-foot home, it would cost approximately $2,000.00, and would take three to four years to receive any payback.

In 2006, Bruno obtained his U.S. patent; and in 2007, he received his Canadian patent for his hot water recirculating pipes.

When Pope John II visited Ottawa in 1984, Bruno installed ten drinking fountains as well as the plumbing for two emergency hospitals at Lebreton Flats.

With our espresso cups empty, and the biscotti finished, we once again headed into the reality of Ottawa's freezing January days, trying to recapture that warm, cozy feeling within the welcoming walls on Prince of Wales Drive.

By Ruth Perley Fortin

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