A pioneer family with its roots deeply entrenched in Kelowna is planning a huge party next month to mark 125 years in the city.
The Rampone family will not only hold a large homecoming at St.Joseph’s Elementary School and Immaculata High School on the weekend of Aug. 4 but is also throwing the party, open to friends and family, Aug. 5 at the Brook and Barn venue on Casorso Road.
The family’s existence in the Okanagan dates back to 1893 when 39-year-old Luigi Celestino Rampone, who would go on to become a farming pioneer of the area, came to the Central Okanagan at the behest of Giovanni Casorzo, better known as John Casorso.
Casorso and Luigi Rampone were both from the same Italian village, Tonco in Piemonte.
While little is known about Rampone’s early years in Italy other than he was a farmer and had a brother named Paolo (or Pietro) who went to Rome and was never heard from again,
In 1882 Rampone married another Rampone, Mellania Maria, daughter of Placido Rampone and Mellania Candida. They had three children, Giuseppina Vittoria Enrichetta in 1884, Domenico Paolo Giuseppe in 1887 and Camillo Joseph in 1892.
In Canada, Luigi worked on John Casorso’s Ranch as well for other farmers such as Archie Hardy.
By 1907, he was renting land for his own farm on Gordon Road and by 1917 had bought the property for himself.
While working in Kelowna, Mellania kept their children in school in Italy and in 1904 Luigi sent for his oldest son Domenico to come to Canada.
Luigi’s brother-in-law Antonio Risso escorted 16-year-old Domenico and a nephew, 17-year-old Caterino Dapavo, by ship to New York and then by train to Sicamous and finally by boat down Okanagan Lake to Kelowna.
The pattern of bringing his kids over continued in 1905 with daughter Giuseppina, 21, at the time, and in 1908 with son Camillo, 16 at the time. Again, both were accompanied by Risso.
While the two boys set out to work on their own and remained for the rest of their lives in Kelowna, Giuseppina was not happy here and returned to Italy in 1907. The family now speculates she was brought here as a mai or housekeeper for Luigi, but having not seen her father since she was 7, did not remember him very well did not want to stay.
Luigi did well growing vegetables in the earlier years, given the soil here was almost virgin and several bumper crops and good marketing led the onions he grew to be shipped around the world. He made enough money to buy a second farm and in 1926 acquired the Benvoulin Road property where the Don O Ray Vegetable operation still stands today.
That farm was known as the Tobacco Ranch because of the five tobacco barns built on the land during the British North American Tobacco Company days.
The latter years of Luigi’s life were not healthy ones. He spent several years in hospital in Vancouver before returning to Kelowna, where he passed away on in 1933 at the age of 79.
Subsequent generations of the Rampone family also were well-known farmers in the area and according to Domenic Rampone, Luigi’s grandson, that farming heritage is part of what the family will celebrate next month.
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