MARIA FIGLIUZZI LARIZZA
MARCH 2, 1922 - MAY 7, 2023
It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of our beloved mother and Nanna, and great-grandmother who passed away peacefully with family at her bedside on May 7, 2023 at the Villa Carital in Vancouver, B.C.
Maria (Figliuzzi) LaRizza was born to Salvatore Figliuzzi and Raffaela Cartolano on March 2, 1922 in Serra San Bruno, Italy. She was the fourth child of seven siblings. She spent her youth helping her mother tend to household responsibilities and caring for her younger siblings while her father was away in New York and Delaware on business. A witness to the hardships of Hitler’s invasion of southern Italy, Maria learned early in life to be strong and discerning of her surroundings and the people she encountered. These wartime years served to cultivate in her an incredible resilience and strong sense of justice and equality that would carry through the rest of her life.
Maria met her one true love and husband of 42 years, Damiano LaRizza, when they were both teenagers. When Damiano turned 18, he was conscripted into the Italian army, and a year later, the Second World War began. He was captured shortly afterwards and taken as a prisoner of war to Siberia where he remained captive for seven years. Maria, with her strong faith, held steadfast in her belief that Damiano would return. Her faith was rewarded in 1947 when Damiano was released and finally able to reunite with his beloved Maria and his family. Maria and Damiano were married on March 12, 1949.
In 1952, Maria left her home in Serra San Bruno to immigrate to Canada with her first child, Bruna. Damiano had made the journey a year earlier and settled in Fernie, B.C. Maria and Bruna joined him in Fernie, and in the years that followed, their family grew with the arrival of two more daughters, Nancy and Raffaela. Despite the challenges they faced, they built a beautiful new life in Canada filled with joy and an unwavering love for one another.
Maria, like many Italian women of her generation, was a loving mother and wife, and an impeccable homemaker. She loved to cook not only for her family, but for others, and no one left her table hungry. She was also a talented baker, knitter, and seamstress. She loved music and to dance, especially the Calabrese Tarantella with her husband, and with anyone willing to keep up with her. She never tired of shopping – another great love – and would drop everything when the opportunity arose to shop with her dear friends in Kalispell, Montana. She was a skilled bocce player and enjoyed outings with her family and their close-knit Italian community to the Fernie campsite and local lakes. In later years, Maria and Damiano would enjoy taking their grandchildren on these outings.
An elegant woman who believed in proper etiquette and the concept of “dovere” (to conduct yourself towards others by acknowledging them respectfully), she was innovative, witty, sociable, gracious and always had a smile on her face. And she was so much more: she was selfless with her love and time, whether she was volunteering to clean the Holy Family Church or as a member of the C.W.L. and the Ladies Italian Lodge. She lived a rich and fulfilling life, always eager to learn and explore. She loved to travel and made many trips to Italy, France, Toronto, Vancouver with Damiano to visit family and friends, of which there were many. Maria had a gift for making friends easily, and had many loyal and loving friends over her lifetime.
Maria was a very proud woman with an unshakable devotion and unconditional love for her husband and three daughters, Bruna (David), Nancy (Jim), and Raffaela “Raffy” (Bill). She cherished her family and was blessed with six grandchildren: Christopher (Lucy), Clayton (Senka), Trevor (Anna), Robert (Melanie), Stefan, and Alexa (Daniel). She loved them dearly, doted on them, and taught them to work hard for what they believed in and to be courageous in all that they did. Her legacy lives on in them.
We are grateful that she lived long enough to meet her six great-grandchildren.
Maria will be deeply missed by her loving family, and all her nieces, and nephews, and her friends. She is preceded in death by her husband Damiano, and siblings Teresa, Pasquale, Rosarina, Brunina, Nazareno and Francescina.
CARA MAMMA, RIPOSA IN PACE
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Variety Children's Charity of BC