While she does not profess to be a gardener, Adriana Calabrese must be doing something right.
Her sunflowers tower above her at her Mackenzie Avenue home and her numerous grapevines are thriving and should be ready for harvesting by October.
“I just water and weed a bit,” the 81-year-old said as she explained that her son Mauro built her some garden boxes after her husband Innocenzo “Inno” passed away two and a half years ago.
Innocenzo was the gardener and he insisted that garden boxes were for lazy gardeners and real gardeners worked directly on the ground.
“My son plants things for me and because of the boxes we had to plant the sunflowers. My husband loved sunflowers because they seeded themselves and regrew every year. We decided we had to keep growing them because of him.”
There is also a variety of purple and green grapes in her garden which all came from friends or friends of friends in Kelowna in 1965.
“We tried making wine out of them but it was too acidic so I make jelly, invite people to pick them, and the deer get the rest,” she said.
Calabrese works as a seamstress, altering wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, hemming and mending even.
She learned her trade as a young woman back in her hometown in Italy.
“It keeps me busy,” she said from her sewing room where she had several projects going, including altering an extravagant wedding dress.
When she has time she also quilts, using up whatever fabric she has leftover.
In 1958 she moved to Wells where her husband was working in the Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine. They moved to Williams Lake in 1965 when he got a job with the railway. That lasted about a year and then he went on to work at West Fraser Sawmill, which in those days was located right across the road from their house.
Innocenzo worked at the sawmill for 25 years and then retired.
Together they raised four daughters — Maria, Gina, Linda and Gabriella and two sons — Nino and Mauro.
When Nino was 23 he drowned in Whitehorse. He had been working up there as a firefighter and went swimming with friends one evening.
“I still think about him everyday,” Calabrese said of her son. “It’s different than losing my husband. He lived to be 89 and had a long life.”
A grandmother of seven grandsons and one granddaughter, she enjoys spending time with them or attending their activities.
“My life is never boring,” she said. ” I’ve always got lots to do and I thank God for that.”