Vittorio Sabetta was a skin specialist with a thriving practice
from 1933 to 1980 on Cooper Street, with the last fifteen
years on Metcalfe Street in downtown Ottawa. He was born Ururi
in the Province of Campobasso, Molise in 1899 and graduated
from the University of Napoli in Medicine and Surgery in December
1924. In 1925 he also attended the University of Pavia. He
came to Canada in 1927 to join his eldest brother Dr. Antonio
Sabetta, Dermatologist and Syphilogist, who had come to Canada
in 1925. They both started to practice medicine in Sault Ste.
Marie, Ontario. Their father Dr. Matteo Sabetta encouraged
them to do this as he had a colleague there who had told him
there was a large Italian community (approx. 10,000) in need
of Italian doctors. At the end of 1926, Dr. Antonio Sabetta
opened a Medical practice in Ottawa and in Montreal where
he worked at the Notre Dame Hospital, the University of Montreal
Teaching Hospital as Professor of Dermatology and Syphilology.
Dr. Vittorio Sabetta wanted to move to Ottawa to join his
brother but the Great Depression was declared and he decided
to remain in Sault Ste. Marie in order to support his fellow
Italians who were affected greatly by the economic catastrophe.
Many lost their jobs at the Algoma Steel Company, which had
to close down. In 1933 he was finally able to move to Ottawa.
June 10, 1940, Dr. Vittorio Sabetta, also a naturalized British
subject, was arrested and interned on June 12, 1940, simply
for being an Italian Canadian, but perhaps also because from
1928-1940 he held an important position in the Sons of Italy
of Ontario. Sabetta's brother Oreste living in Sault Ste.
Marie was also arrested. Neither brother was ever charged.
Their other brother Dr. Antonio Sabetta, who was living in
Montreal, had just gotten married on June 4, 1940, and was
on his honeymoon in New York City when he heard of the arrests
and internment of his brothers. He therefore did not return
to Montreal but instead had a visa to work and found a job
at the University of Philadelphia as a Professor of Dermatology.
He returned to Canada only at the end of the war but his wife
Consuelo, who had no visa, travelled back and forth from Montreal
to Philadelphia with their daughter Yolanda who was born in
Montreal in May 1941. Dr. Antonio Sabetta saw his daughter
for the first time when she was 3 months old.
Ottawa, Dr. Sabetta was a well-respected intellectual, and
orator who would often be called upon to give speeches for
community events and banquets. As noted he was a member and
very active in the Sons of Italy, which was a mutual aid society
that helped with the funeral expenses of its members. When
the head organization of the Sons of Italy decided to be non-sectarian,
Ottawa's chapter instead lobbied to retain its religious affiliation
and broke from the main group. Dr. Vittorio Sabetta was recorded
as stating that, "I am not ashamed of the gospel."
Tiezzi, whose own father Gino Tiezzi was interned, remembers
Dr. Sabetta very well, as he was Italo's godfather. Italo
remembers a few stories from that time. As a testament to
the strength and resilience of individuals, Italo recounts
that on that fateful day when both his father and the Sabetta
brothers were picked up they found themselves in the back
seat of the same RCMP car. When Gino Tiezzi and Vittorio Sabetta
tried to talk, the RCMP officer sitting in the front seat
told them that they could not talk. Instead Dr. Sabetta then
began to communicate by singing in operatic mode "Quando
ti hanno preso..."(When did they take you...). Of course
they were stopped from doing that too, but it showed how resourceful
and un-intimidated they were faced with such an ordeal.
Dr. Sabetta was picked up, the information that was circulating
in the community was that Dr. Sabetta's files and his equipment
were confiscated. He was released on February 15, 1943 and
was able to resume his practice. However, a car he had that
was left in the care of a long time girlfriend Miss Sabourin
was never returned. Nello Bortolotti, who at the time was
a child, remembers Dr. Sabetta as a friend of his father's.
Nello's recollection of that time after the war revolves around
Dr. Sabetta's new car. During the war cars were very difficult
to have, but because Dr. Sabetta was a medical doctor, he
was able to get one of a few. Yet, as chrome was needed for
the war effort, what was memorable for Nello was that this
car's bumper had been replaced by a wooden one.
the time of his internment Dr. Sabetta was not married, though
he would later marry Lina Bucciarelli. Before Dr. Sabetta
was interned, Nello's mother was often seen helping Dr. Sabetta,
tending his garden, helping with the chores in his home. While
he was interned Italo's mother and grandmother who were looking
after their own loved one Gino Tiezzi, also sent Dr. Sabetta
packages and cared for him as well. For years afterwards,
Dr. Sabetta always remembered this act of kindness and brought
a gift of a plant to Italo's maternal grandmother, Lucia Dinardo
at Christmas time as a thank-you for her care of him during
that difficult time.
Sabetta, Dr. Sabetta's niece remembers her uncle as;
man who stayed young at heart until his death. He was sociable;
he liked people and liked to sing, to dance, and to party.
He was generous with his time and money, very devoted to his
patients, to his profession, to the Italian Community and
especially to all the members of his family. He was liked
by the young and the old. He had a deep faith and was a practicing
Catholic. He remained very close to his brothers and sisters
in Italy and to his nephews and visited them regularly and
helped them financially as much as he could. He helped to
pay the medical studies of his youngest brother Aldo who is
now 86 years old and living in San Martino, Italy and his
nephew Matteo Sabetta who was the Chief Doctor of Ururi until
he retired two years ago."
Italy's joining the Allies towards the end of the war in Europe,
Dr. Sabetta continued to be invited to speak at community
functions and to be very active in the Italian Community and
his medical practice until his death. In 1974 the Academy
of Medicine and the Order of Doctors and Surgeons officially
recognized Dr. Vittorio Sabetta for his fifty years of distinguished
service to the community of Ottawa. He died in his sleep on
February 20, 1980. He was eighty years old.