Art Gigliotti – A grassroots citizen

Art remembers his childhood with fondness, saying it was a happy childhood.

  • Jun. 11, 2015 6:00 p.m.
Art Gigliotti

Art Gigliotti

By Jennifer Cronin

Free Press Staff

In 1912, a 17-year-old Italian lad travelled from his home in Italy to Sudbury, ON, where he stayed for approximately a year before moving on to Fernie. In 1915 when, in the midst of World War I, the Italians joined the Allied forces, he returned to Italy to join in battle, only to return to Fernie at the end of the war.

This young man was Annunciato (Nuzzi) Gigliotti.

Upon his return to Fernie, he met Mary Miscisco, and they were married in 1932. Four years later they welcomed their first son, Art (Arthur).

Art was born in Fernie in his grandmother’s house that was located behind the Guzzi’s store, which was on 2nd Avenue. Named after his mother’s brothers, Arthur and Carmello (Charlie), Art for 10 years was an only child until he became big brother to Gary. Art remembers his childhood with fondness, saying it was a happy childhood. His mother stayed at home and his father worked as a tracklayer in the Coal Creek mine.

“Everyone had either a coal or a wood stove, and my chore was to take out the ashes. The City of Fernie would come and pick them up, summer and winter, it didn’t matter, it had to be done,” Art shared.

As a young boy, Art attended the Catholic School before moving to Fernie Secondary School in Grade 8.  He was raised in a house on 7th Avenue, just two doors down from where he has lived for the past 38 years.

“Art never moved off the block, how many people can say that?” laughs Art’s wife Helen.

Admittedly, he was not involved in many sports, but became proficient in badminton, often returning to his school to play.

After leaving school, Art worked on the railroad flipping ties, and subsequently for Hydro building the tunnels for the hydro dam in Elko.

As an adult, Art was on the executive board of the Fernie United Soccer team.

“They had a strong soccer team, and every Labour Day, teams would come in from Calgary, Lethbridge and Edmonton for a tournament,” he recalls.

Art’s wife, Helen (née Hislop) was born in Montreal. After catching Expo fever while attending the exposition in Montreal in 1967, Helen set off across Canada with the idea of catching a cargo ship to attend the Osaka exposition, but never made it further than Fernie.

When asked how he met his wife Helen, Art recalls them meeting at the annual Coal Creek picnic. Art, who has the reputation as a bit of a practical joker, shared that during their courtship he confided in Helen that he had considered joining the seminary and becoming a priest, “But it wasn’t for me.”

Unbeknownst to Helen, this was Art’s sense of humour, and it was not until they had been married for a couple of years that one of his friends let the cat out of the bag that this was a joke.

“All of his buddies kept the secret,” Helen laughed.

Art has been an active member of the 3300 Club since 1973. Despite being the oldest practicing member, Art has happily avoided an executive appointment. He has been called the “labourer” for all the work he does.

Helen shared that “she can count on one hand the number of meetings he has missed.”

Art is also a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus, a long-time member of the Royal Canadian Legion and a former member of the Elks.

Art and Helen have two sons, Jarrod; a Red Seal trained chef living in Lethbridge, and Ryan; a marketing director in Chicago, as well as three grandchildren.

After 35 years working at the Government Liquor Store, Art retired in 1996, only to return part time for three or four more years to help out.

When asked what is the biggest change he has seen in Fernie, Art notes the transformation into a “resort town” from a mining town.

With a great sense of humour, Art Gigliotti is a dedicated and community-minded “face of the valley.”