Peppi Rino: the man who painted a city

There are but a few houses in the Elk Valley that the paint brush of Peppi Rino has not touched, and yet, many may not know the extent of his workmanship.

Born in southern Italy, Rino came to Canada at the age of 20 in 1959. His brothers had come before him, in 1952.

Upon arrival, he saw many differences from his homeland.

“It was quite a bit different,” said the Italian, who was raised in a town of 5,000 to work the farm and acquire some land.

Outside of work when he was growing up, Rino’s love for soccer was unfathomable. However, soccer was not his only love. He also played the trumpet in a local band.

Two years after coming to Canada in 1959, Rino started his own business as a painter, known as ‘Peppi Decorating’. Under this name, Rino painted too many houses to count.

Rino met his wife, Rosetta, in 1964, and they were married four years later.

Rino originally worked in the mill and painted on the side. However in 1969, he left his job at the mill and gave painting his full attention. Rino worked for another 45 years after this, then quit when he was diagnosed with cancer. It was 1982 when it struck him first, but after four years of battling, he returned to work. Five-years ago, the cancer returned.

Throughout his career as a painter, Rino never dabbled on paper. Each house was his canvas.

After becoming well-known in the area for his work, Rino was contracted to work for Mike Delich with the Fernie Lodging Company. By himself, Rino painted the inside of every building Delich built.

Comparing the style of homes in Canada to those in Italy, Rino says there is no comparison. In Italy, everything is built from stone, stucco, marble and granite. Some buildings in his homeland were built before the coming of Jesus Christ.

In his 58 years in Fernie, Rino has seen much change. When he first arrived, Coal Creek Mine had just closed. Soon after, the brewery moved to Kimberley. This caused Fernie to become a ghost town, and Rino too left the city for Calgary in 1960. Five years later he returned, looking for work. After struggling to find a job, Rino was forced to once again return to Calgary, where he worked for a few years as a painter. Not long after, Rino found a job in Fernie, and he vowed to never leave again.

Rino was drawn back to Fernie because of a few key things; hunting, fishing, curling, and friends.

“It was, (pretty casual) yes,” he said.

Looking back on his years as a painter, Rino said, “I want to say thank to all the people in the Elk Valley, who gave me work. (You) were very nice to me, very true. From Elkford, to South Country and Cranbrook.”

Part of his success in work was attributable to Rino’s skill, but he also credits his attitude. He reiterated that he never left a job site without 100 per cent customer satisfaction, and for this, he made a name for himself as an upstanding businessman.

“I have a good reputation here,” he said. “Because (I was a) hardworker, and (the) quality. And keeping my mouth shut.”

Since the turn of the century, Rino has seen society change.

“Before you used to go out walking, go in the post office, you know everybody and everybody knows you,” he said. “Now, you go downtown, I’m lucky if I know two, (or) three people.”

Some newcomers that do recognize him, Rino admits he doesn’t always recognize them back, but apologized and said this was due to his old age.

Although he had stepped away from the sport of soccer as a kid, Rino decided to coach in Fernie for a few years. One year, the kids won the local championship and for this, he is very proud.

After he married his love, Rosetta, Rino was focused on building a house, raising a family and seeing his children succeed. As years went on, he was able to send his three daughters to university. One is a high school teacher, one is a professor in language, and one practices acupuncture. He sees this as his biggest accomplishment.

Rino believes the most important things in life are health and family.

“Yes, you’ve got to work, because you have to look after the family. For me, that’s the two main things,” he said. “And, you’ve got to enjoy a little bit, as much (as) you can.