The heartbeat is the sound of life and for Carmelina Corsi Cusano that heartbeat stopped at 3:45 p.m. on July 25. There are certain people in our lives who simply make the world a better place. Who inspire and encourage us. Who shows us just how good life can be. This was Carmelina. Born in Cascalenda, Campobasso, Italy, Carmelina ventured to Canada in 1962. The transatlantic journey aboard Saturnia was permanently etched into the fabric of her being and herewith, the story, in her words:

"In an old cardboard DIY suitcase were housed the few toys I had accumulated through the first 11 years of my life. Now, this baggage was needed for my journey to Canada. My father, Pasquale Corsi, had left Italy for Canada three years prior, setting the foundation for our new life in the town of Lake Cowichan on the far off Vancouver Island, located on the west coast of Canada.

When the call to mom came for us (me and my older sister) to part Casacalenda for “Laco Covican” as my dad called it, the anguish I felt was indescribable. I gathered my few treasured toys that had given me so many hours of pleasure and painstakingly packed each item in the paper. I wrapped my beloved doll in a little shawl I had crotched and delicately placed it in a shoebox. I also included six little play cups and finally tied the box with a red ribbon ready for our boat trip across the Atlantic. The crossing was horrendous; nine long, painful days in a dark cabin of a post-war ship unsteady like a drunken soldier. My doll was of comfort through the nausea, sadness, anguish, and homesickness. As we approached Halifax, getting ready to disembark, we did not have enough hands to carry all of our belongings and my mother decided that the doll had to go. I opened the box for one last kiss. I had only the time to put the shawl and the cups in my pocket before I felt my mom’s heavy hand grasp the box and thrust it overboard in the frigid water. Through my tears, I watched it float away only to disappear in the distance.

I hated my dad’s decision to immigrate. Everything that was associated with my childhood was gone and now I had to confront the difficulties of my new life in a strange, unknown land."

There is a resilience one gains in starting over, one that propelled Carmelina to set foot on a new path. Once the Corsi family—papà Pasquale, mamma Rosa, sisters Teresa and Carmelina—moved from Vancouver Island to the mainland, Carmelina attended Vancouver Technical High School all the while working shelling peas, earning 25 cents a bucket, to save the funds to attend university, a goal she personally set for herself to be the first of her family and peers to continue on with post-secondary education. In 1974, she graduated from the University of British Columbia at the top of her class with a Bachelor of Education, specializing in French as a second language.

July 19, 1975 wedding bells rang. Carmelina married Pasquale Cusano, a fellow Italian immigrant, at Our Lady of Sorrows church. In due course, four children—Claudia, Marcella, Massimo, and Giancarlo—completed the Cusano family at six. As a mom, Carmelina was singular in her focus, choosing to stop teaching as a profession after only one year to selflessly devote herself to her children, and to parent in the best way possible: by being present. 

Despite a diagnosis of stage 4 Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma (cancer of the bile duct) in 2019, Carmelina remained determined. A three-month window of life translated to nearly two years of somewhat good days and not-so-good days. On the Lord’s Day, as one tear from the corner of Carmelina’s right eye rolled down her cheek, the mother, wife, nonna, daughter, sister, and a devoted friend took her final breath. With a slight nod of her head to her husband, four children, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, and five grandchildren, she bid adieu. 

Carmelina had a heart comprised of two cultures—Italian and Canadian—and that gave her a broad perception of the world, taking the best from each nation to make the best version of herself. We have peace knowing Carmelina will be reunited with her father.

 Una donna colta e leale, pura e protettiva, sempre devota alla famiglia e alla comunità con bontà d’animo e creatività. Il nostro affetto per te durerà in eterno. 

We invite you to join Carmelina and her family at the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, August 3, 2021, at 11:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, 555 Slocan Street, Vancouver. 

A private entombment to follow; thank you for respecting the family’s wishes.