Ninety in the shade

CAMILLO and Enrica Feltrin embody a fast-vanishing era of the Coffs Coast's history. As Italian migrants who arrived on the North Coast on the eve of World War II, the couple struggled with the barrier of language, with becoming part of Australia's forced labour force during the war years and with seeing friends and neighbours interned, while other members of their family were trapped on the other side of the war, half a world away.

As poor people who grew up during the depression years of the 1920s and arrived in this country with very little, they struggled to make enough money to feed their families, build a house and buy a farm.

They struggled to clear the land and to overcome their fear of the dark and unfamiliar bush and its strange animals, different seasons and new crops.

In spite of many setbacks, ranging from snakes in the packing shed to dealing with wartime bureaucracy, Mr and Mrs Feltrin not only survived, they raised three sons, were able to enjoy the prosperity their hard work brought them and in their later years were able to make a number of trips back to Italy to visit friends and relations.

This weekend, Camillo Feltrin and his wife celebrated Camillo's 90th birthday with 30 members of three generations of their family with their sons, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.

Mr and Mrs Feltrin's three sons, Lino, Franco and Luciano, all live in Coffs Harbour, so the family was able to host the extended family for the weekend, with a special lunch and birthday cake on Saturdy followed by a Saturday evening bonfire, which was a favourite with the younger-generation Feltrin children.

Camillo and Enrica Feltrin, who are both 90, still live in the brick home in West Coffs Harbour they built in 1971 and their son Lino and his wife Barbara live next door.

Camillo Feltrin and Enrica Formaggin met in the Italian village of Caneva in Northern Italy when they were 15. They became engaged two years later and married in December 1938, only six days before Camillo left for Australia aboard the Espilino. It would be more than a year before they were reunited and 12 years before they were able to settle down for good in Coffs Harbour, but neither partner was ever to have regrets.

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