Links between the Piovesan and Tonellato families

Guest blogger, Angelo Piovesan, writes about the close connections between three generations of the Piovesan and Tonellato families.

The long relationship between the pioneering Piovesan and Tonellato families had its origins back in Italy, before they departed for Australia.

The Tonellato family were from Caselle di Altivole.  My nonna’s family also had lived in Altivole for a long time (her first two children were born in Altivole) before moving to Ponzano Veneto, so she knew the Tonellato family.  It no doubt explains how her son / my zio Angelo Piovesan (then 22 years old) decided to accompany, and was looked after, by Secondo Tonellato (later affectionately known to me as nonno della pipa) on the voyage to Australia in 1927.

Tonellato family in front of the vagon, 1935:
Nano, Elisabetta, Alberto, Luigi, Rosina, Secondo, Lino

Secondo was 20 years younger than our nonna and must have been around 35 years old at that time, when leaving behind his wife and 5 children – the youngest, “Nano”/Orlando was born after his father migrated. As part of my young adult life, I remember Mum telling me that my nonna Fortunata Virginia Merlo’s family had later sponsored or was guarantor for the Tonellato family to migrate to Australia in 1935.

Zio Angelo lived alongside Secondo Tonellato in a galvanised iron shed next to where the famed vagon/ railway carriage was later located and occupied by Elisabetta and her young Tonellato family, on their arrival on 14/06/35.  Zio Angelo lived there until he died in 1949, whilst zia Rosalia and his own young Piovesan family continued to live there until they moved into their new house on Frogmore Road in late 1951.  Based on my memories as a youngster, the railway carriage and shed were located just off a bamboo lined, dirt laneway running between Frogmore Rd and River / Findon Rd, located about where the bend is now in Fergusson Ave (off Frogmore Rd.)

Rosalia Piovesan and Dino, Bruno and Nillo, in front of the vagon c1940/1941

It is easy to imagine how a 30 year old Angelo would therefore repay the kindness of Secondo by helping to look out for his recently arrived young family aged between 13 years to 8 years old, forming a close friendship with the children. The two wives would also have been very grateful for the company, becoming close friends. Zia Rosalia herself had arrived only months earlier on 8/09/34 and was just about to become a mother at the time of arrival of the Tonellato family, delivering her first child Nillo only days later in June 1935. The growth of the Piovesan family quickly followed, with the births of Dino in late 1936 and Bruno at the end of 1937.

Nino, Lui, Rosina, Rosalia, Albert, and Nano with baby Nillo, late 1935

Similarly, it is easy to see how the Tonellato children would have helped look after the young Piovesan children as they grew up alongside them for 16 years, developing their own close friendships – which lasted over their lifetimes. Over the latter years, this was particularly evident with the close ties between Albert Tonellato and Bruno Piovesan, then between Bruno and Albert’s son Ray, and now with Ray mentoring Bruno’s own children – following Bruno’s death in 2014.

Whilst our branch of the Piovesan family did not arrive until late January 1950, we received the same level of friendship and support from the Tonellato clan and developed our own close ties with Albert, Mary and their young family. Ray and I were born only months apart and were fellow classmates right through our schooling, together with Silvano Ballestrin and Robert Berno – both of whom lived close to Ray and his family. I spent quite a bit of time during school holidays with Ray at their home, either helping out in their market garden picking vegetables in the glasshouses, occasionally getting up very early and attending the East End Produce Market on East Terrace, or helping collect chicken manure at several poultry farms for the glasshouses – the closest being the poultry farm formerly located on the current Findon Shopping Centre site on the corner of Grange and Findon Roads.

Ray’s parents, Albert and Mary, became my Confirmation godparents, as did my parents for Ray’s younger sister Janet. Later on, both Ray and I were in each other’s bridal parties, with the close friendship between the two of us continuing to this day.

John, Angelo, Renzo, Mario and Vittoria Piovesan, Adelaide, 2004

This was typical of the close relationships developed between families from the Veneto region who were close or near neighbours back in Italy before migrating to Adelaide.  It was certainly true of the Piovesan, Santin and Tonellato families, whose origins had started with the heads of those families migrating together in 1927 and then living alongside each other and purchasing farming land along Frogmore Road. All these migrating Veneto families shared and were united by very similar stories of struggles post WW1 and during WW2, which led to them developing strong family bonds and support networks – enabling them to grow their families and flourish in their adopted home. They all became part of one larger extended family in Adelaide.

Angelo Piovesan
29 November 2020


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