With great sadness, we announce the passing of Dante, loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Born in Montreal to immigrant parents, he grew up during the depression and early on learned the value of a dollar. An excellent student who already spoke three languages, he was forced to quit school at fourteen when his father died and was soon supporting the family by making bike deliveries through Montreal streets. Later he found better work, as a shoe salesman. Among only a few bilingual employees, Dante witnessed first-hand the inequity of language exclusion, as customers were forced to struggle in English to obtain service. Always a fervent believer in national unity, those experiences formed his lifelong advocacy of French language rights outside Quebec, and the richness of a multicultural Canada. Through night school he earned his high school diploma while working full-time, then to the dismay of his immigrant mother, he left a good paying job in accounting to become a public school teacher. In spite of the pay cut, Dante loved his new job, and his students loved him. He ultimately obtained his M.Ed. and Ph.D. Years later, as an educational administrator in Montreal, he would publicly defend the rights of Italian Canadians to have their children schooled in the language of their choice, even as his involvement in a political issue threatened his career.
Dante moved to the West Coast with his family in 1973 to become Vancouver’s Superintendent of Schools. He later served with the Department of National Defence Schools in Germany, and as an Administrator in Residence at the University of British Columbia, chairing advisory boards and professional associations along the way. Throughout his career, Dante took on many important issues, including the advancement of women in leadership, the involvement of parents in decision-making in their local school, and French language rights outside Quebec. A lifelong educator, Dante let no “teachable moment” go by, as comfortable at the lecture podium as he was teaching a neighbourhood child to fix the chain on his bike.
While he had relocated to Vancouver, he was still engaged in national unity issues arising in Quebec. He would travel from Vancouver to Quebec to work with the NO side in the Referendum campaigns, marching, speaking, and driving the elderly to polling stations. While the issues became increasingly complicated, he returned time and again to his core belief in the importance of multilingualism as both a right and a privilege.
Dante was also a man of faith, volunteering his time as a Lector at Sunday Masses and contributing however possible.
Dante had a successful career rivalled only by the family man we all had the privilege to know and love. His grandchildren fondly remember his “secret” handshake, reserved only for them, along with his ever-present sense of humour. He loved music, especially jazz and swing dancing. Family gatherings often ended with a twirl around the living room, a little one standing on his shoes, and later, listening to his beautiful tenor voice singing a child, or a grandchild, to sleep. He loved to listen to his records, especially Frank Sinatra. In recent years, he would fill the car with his voice, singing along to dozens of his favourites. He never forgot the words.
Dante always seemed intent on giving his children what he had missed in childhood. While
finances might not have allowed for luxurious vacations, there were always camping trips in the
tent-trailer, road trips to ski hills, and memorable summer holidays on the Island to fish, swim, or read on the beach. Dinner hours always included a story about the importance of standing up for what was right, whether it was an injustice on the playground, the classroom, or the workplace. As he used to say: “even if you’re the only one, stand up for what you believe.”
To be his child or grandchild was to understand that you were here to make a difference.
Dante’s path was long and his accomplishments many, but he never forgot where he came
from, demonstrating respect and inclusion in every aspect of his life, and gratitude for the gifts he was given. Among these he valued above all his wife of 65 years and life-long love, Louise, his four children Lora, Linda, Peter (Valerie), and Andrea, his grandchildren Elizabeth, Michael, Katie, David, Andrew, Madeline, Jesse, Elliot, Dante, and Maria, and his great-grandchildren, Bowen and Cedar. Dante believed in responsibility, integrity, and compassion. He had a beautiful voice, literally and figuratively, which he was never afraid to use. He taught all who knew and loved him to appreciate the power of their own voice. He will be deeply missed by his family and all who knew him. A private family service was held on March 30th.