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Giuliana Gazzola lived life on her own terms

Giuliana Gazzola spent many years working as a travel agent and helped establish a women's group in Guelph called 'Gruppo Donne Trevisane'

Guilana Gazzola, saw beauty in the world and spent her life sharing it with others.

Born in the region of Treviso, Italy, in 1938 to parents Carolina and Benedetto Gazzola, Giuliana immigrated to Canada with her family in 1950 and settled in Guelph.

Her youngest sister, Valeria Porcellato, describes Giuliana as a 'Italian-Canadian' who helped connect her with her Italian traditions and heritage.

"She is the holder to the key of who I am and where I am from," said Porcellato.

Luciana Maggiotto, another sister of Giuliana, said their parents really counted on Giuliana as she was the eldest of four daughters.

"She was really held in very high self esteem by our parents," said Maggiotto, adding if she or her sisters went somewhere, Giuliana had to come with them.

At the age of 84, Giuliana passed away June 19 after battling Alzheimer's. 

As a teenager, Giuliana dropped out of school to support her family. She worked various jobs before becoming a travel agent for a local agency, then working for an Italian travel agency until she retired at 65.

"They hired her with the understanding that she would go to Toronto for a couple of weeks to do training," said Maggiotto, adding Giuliana had worked for various factories prior to being a travel agent.

Being a travel agent suited Giuliana, who spoke fluent Italian and travelled extensively herself. Maggiotto said Giuliana was well-liked among coworkers and did an amazing job. When the travel agency opened a new location, Giuliana was made manager.

"She really took the time to get to know the people and know what they would really like," said Maggiotto.

"What she didn't learn from formal education, she learned by far, through her extensive international travels," said Porcellato, adding Giuliana visited the Fiji Islands, South America, Central America, the British Isles and many times to Italy.

During her travels, Giuliana began to build a collection of different items while travelling, from art to books to clothing. Many items also ended up being gifts for family and friends, often with a story behind them.

"What she gave, it wasn't the thing, but why she gave," said Porcellato about Giuliana's generosity.

Procellato adds Giuliana had strength in the arts, especially in photography which she captured images from her travels and of family. 

"She loved beautiful things, like her artwork collection is just amazing. The crystals, the elegance of what she picked up internationally. The beautiful, ebony statues, the handmade carved items, so that sort of translates into the eye and things that she would photograph, so there's nothing to compare what we have in our digital camera to things that she created," said Porcellato.

Family was another important component in Giuliana's life. When her parents became ill, Giuliana became their sole caretaker. While she never ended up getting married, Giuliana treated her nieces and nephews like her own, never missing a birthday or milestone. 

Within the community, Giuliana founded a women's group called Gruppo Donne Trevisane, which aims to provide a social outlet for Italian women who came to Guelph with events, speakers and trips. Started 34 years ago, the club remains active today with over 50 members. Giuliana remained involved in the group until eight years ago, when her health began to decline. 

Linda Gobbi, secretary of Gruppo Donne Trevisane, said Giuliana called her in 1988 to ask if she would join the group.

"Giuliana, she started this group deciding that it was a good time for women to get out of their house and meet with other women and talk about social issues and health issues and just a time to chat," said Gobbi.

"She will definitely be missed, because how many women started an organization like she did and kept it going all these years?"

The last trip Giuliana ever took was four years ago with Maggiotto when they returned to their home region in Italy. Maggiotto said Giuliana had no regrets about her life.

"She said, 'Lucy, I lived a good, happy life on my own terms."