A brief history, as read by the Priest at my father’s funeral:
He was training to be an orthopaedic shoe maker when he was called up to fight in the war for Italy on 1st February 1940, he would have been 20 in May of that year.
He was a gunner loading and firing the big artillery guns. He fought in Greece, Albania and Libya. He was captured in Libya and was sent to South Africa, where he stayed for 2 years building roads. From there he travelled through the Suez Canal and eventually ended up in England. He landed in Liverpool in the winter still wearing his desert attire. From Liverpool he was sent to Newcastle for distribution. Sudbury was his next destination where he stayed for 3 months, but on complaining about the conditions he was classed as a troublemaker and was shipped out to Salisbury, where he was told he was being sent to the Isle of Wight. All he could think of was that Napolean had been sent to an island!!! When he left Salisbury on the 17th January 1945 there was 4 inches of snow but when he got on to the Island it was a beautiful sunny day, he thought “What a beautiful Island, why have they sent me here?” This started his love affair with the Isle of Wight. He was billetted at Strathwell Manor, Whitwell where he became cook for the other 53 detainees.
He resurrected his shoe making skills to earn a bit of money and this is how he met his wife, Noni. He made Noni’s mum a pair of sandals and when he went to deliver them Noni was there and it was love at first sight. Later that year the war ended and Pietro was sent back to Italy but before leaving he told Noni if she got him a work permit he would return and marry her. Not the most romantic proposal but they celebrated 50 years of marriage in 1997, and in that time had 3 children. Carla, Enrico and Mara.
When Pietro came back to England he had to work on a farm because it was the only work available but in February 1951 he started his own business called Express Repairs, specialising in the manufacture of surgical shoes as well as general repairs. 17 years later he formed a partnership with Ryde Surgical Stores, which involved him holding 4 clinics at mainland hospitals where he fitted surgical shoes and appliances that he made. This partnership lasted 4 years and when it ended he went back to his own business which he ran until he retired in 1985. Pietro’s expertise does live on however as he passed his skills onto 2 local young men who are now, thanks to Pietro, shoe makers in their own right. He always said they were better than him, a compliment indeed as he was a very hard act to follow.
(Written by Carla Cortesi Haygarth)
Eulogy (Read and Written by Carla Cortesi Haygarth)
Where do I start. My dad could be stubborn, cantankerous and awkward but he was the most thoughtful, kindest, determined positive, loving and selfless person I know. If he could help someone he would, in every way possible.
I never knew my dad to have hobbies because he was always busy working and he certainly did a lot of that in his lifetime and most of that work was helping others. Nothing pleased him more than knowing that the shoes he had made or repaired had made someone happy, especially on the orthopaedic side.
My dad’s biggest love was his family and everything he did was for them always worrying if we were all o.k. No matter how old we were. He was so proud of everything we achieved, always interested in what we were all doing. Particularly proud when my brother was on The Weakest Link, sadly he didn’t win but of course he should have. I’m sure he drove the girls at Byrnhill mad showing them the dvd over and over. He was so proud of his grandchildren, always encouraging them to be better than him and his achievements, which was a hard act to follow. If any of us achieve half of what he did in his life we would be fortunate.
Once dad retired he had time to do the things he wanted to do. He loved to cook but you didn’t want to be in the kitchen when he did it and you certainly didn’t want to have to do the washing up!!
He loved to dabble in a bit of D.I.Y too, but really should have stuck to shoemaking. He could work wonders with a piece of leather but anything else was a different story. His DIY tools consisted of a hammer and a knife and if this couldn’t fix it he’d have to give in and get the experts in!!
He enjoyed driving but that had to be done at full speed, making sure, of course, that he didn’t break the speed limits and according to him all the other drivers on the road were bad ones. Being able to drive meant he had to park too, which in one case needed police intervention. I was sat in my office one day and could see a car trying to park, after about 10 attempts I commented to my boss that the queue of traffic must be back to Shanklin. The policeman who had been standing on the pavement eventually asked the driver if he could park it for him and yes you’ve guessed it when the driver got out it was my dad. We were all quite relieved when he gave up driving although it wasn’t completely because he got a mobility scooter so although the road users were safe the pedestrians were now at risk!
His world fell apart in March 2001 when my mum passed away. But he picked himself up and carried on, living alone with support from his family until 2006 when, after a couple of falls and becoming more immobile he moved in with Colin and I. So we gained a dad and a dog. I often threatened to send the dad back and keep the dog as Benjy was less trouble, but we all settled down. After 5 years his mobility was getting worse and he had another couple of falls. Dad had to go into respite care but from day 1 he was determined he wasn’t going to be there for long but after 3months he told me he wanted to stay and that’s when he made Byrnhill his home. He loved his room , the staff, the care and he could still be a bit independent, but most of all he felt safe. One of the highlights of his stay was when his friend Enzo also moved into Byrnhill, although sadly they were to only spend a short time together there.
This year has been quite a sad one for dad he has lost 2 friends, his little dog Benjy, a nephew in Italy and saddest of all his only son but he bounced back and focused on good times and memories. It ended on a happier note though because 10 days before his death my sister got married and even though he couldn’t be there, thanks to modern technology he saw a picture of Mara in her wedding dress. He was so thrilled and relieved that she was now happy and settled with, as he called Richard, a lovely man.
He spent a week in hospital but the old Cortesi determination set in, he wasn’t going to stay in there, he was going back to his girls, “his angels” at Byrnhill and I cannot thank Joy Alexander, the manager,enough for making that happen. I think he knew this was the end and wanted to be with people he loved and who loved him. My dad never expected to live to 93 years old and as his health deteriorated and his Community Matron, Chris told him something else was wrong he’d tell her “too many blerry carnivals” so Dad the last song is especially for you. but before you go on your way you always told me you were lucky to have me but I was the lucky one having you as a dad, you weren’t just my dad you were my adviser, my confidant and my best friend. If I’m half the person you were dad I would be happy. I will so miss you but I know you are where you want to be with your beloved Noni and reunited with Nikki or should I say Enrico to you. God bless until we meet again.