Ivan Zecchini, right, at the 2006 Welland Horticultural Society Rose Show where one of his entries won Grand Champion Rose in Show. At left is Marvin Myhre, who was president of the society. (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the newspaper page from where this image was taken became creased when placed in the archive, hence the streak through a part.)
By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
Ivan Zecchini, who died Wednesday, July 11, will be remembered by many as a gentle man and a gentleman. He marked his 89th birthday on June 28.
Soft-spoken and the epitome of politeness, Mr. Zecchini was a Wellander who was proud of his hometown. He told me that many times, including the last occasion we met, Friday evening, July 6.
An only child whose father worked at the Plymouth Cordage plant, he was born in one of the Cordage houses on King Street. Later, his family moved to a home on Hellems Avenue near Lincoln Street. From there they moved to Summit Avenue where he lived until his passing, almost five decades.
Sitting on the front porch when I visited that Friday evening, he talked about ongoing affection for the neighbourhood, his respect and admiration for its majestic, towering trees and the shade canopy they provide, and mourning doves that were occasional visitors. He considered himself blessed to live in such a setting, expressing undying gratitude – even all these years later – to his parents for their decision to relocate to this still and peaceful part of town.
Mr. Zecchini had a rare attribute. In a friendship that spanned about 25 years, I cannot recall him uttering a negative word about anyone. Nada. Not one. A mutual friend shared that remembrance during the telephone call in which we were told of his passing. Even when U.S. President Donald Trump’s name would surface in conversation, Mr. Zecchini refrained from caustic, critical commentary. Simply put: it just was not in him.
Gifted with a strong commitment to helping care for the poor, he was a long-time member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at his parish, St. Kevin, Welland, including serving as treasurer. Though long retired from the charitable organization, he remained a model Vincentian who, in daily life, lived its virtues, particularly simplicity, humility and meekness. Mr. Zecchini faithfully attended the annual Stations of the Cross re-enactment at the church by Notre Dame College School students on Good Fridays. From his preferred pew near the back of the church, he would watch the actors in rapt silence, commenting only when the production was finished. He went home moved by the experience.
He had a deeply-rooted fondness for roses. It was an inheritance from his father, who planted roses and tended them for years. After his passing, Mr. Zecchini carried on the tradition, growing the garden to about 50 bushes at peak. As an exhibitor in local rose shows, his entries won many ribbons and trophies, including for best of show.
His backyard abutted that of another notable rosarian, the late Joe Mocsan. They convened every so often at the fence that separated their properties, trading comments about respective blooms of various hues. Mr. Mocsan was chairman of the Rose Festival Rose Show several years, and Mr. Zecchini served as his able assistant. It was a perfect pairing!
I now wish my visits to this house where time seemed to stand still had been more frequent. They started on the front porch, then carried on inside at Mr. Zecchini’s kitchen table. The conversations meandered. We talked about Welland in the ’50s, Welland in the ’60s, Welland in the ’70s, historic events (the final raising of the Main Street bridge in December, 1972 was one of his favourites, he was there to bear witness), King Street, Main Street, Fifth Street (a family connection made him a visitor to the latter), Plymouth Cordage, the old railway swing bridge, and more.
It was in the kitchen that Mr. Zecchini brought out a bottle of his merlot, always served chilled. We had one glass, a second glass, and sometime a third if the conversation so warranted and time allowed. Mr. Zecchini served cookies by the dozen, almost always biscotti, but on occasion pizzelle to enjoy with his wine. It was a continental pairing!
He also poured the occasional glass of another homemade red, a Montepulciano. Once, I brought over a bottle of Montepulciano from the liquor store. A sour grapes expression appeared on his visage from assuming the store-bought bottle stood on the table as a replacement for his own. But I assured him it was a gift to enjoy at his leisure, perhaps while having a plate or two of pasta and meatsauce, the same as his mother had made for the small family in now distant years.
I will retain many lasting images of this honorable, kind-hearted man. But my favourite will always be that of Mr. Zecchini, hands clasped in front of him, sitting on his porch on a sunny summer eve. His countenance glowed from wide-eyed appreciation of the neighbourhood’s verdant splendour. The joy it brought was unabating, carrying him through to the end of his days.
(Lasting Image is a recurring feature on the blog.)
Death notice information is on the J. J. Patterson and Sons Funeral Home website at https://www.arbormemorial.ca/en/jjpatterson