There must be hundreds of organizations, groups, clubs or events, unknown to most of us, and recently I came across one that totally threw me for a loop. It is the World Tiramisu Competition, held in Treviso, Italy, the first week of November. Ordinarily this would not be something I would take much notice of, except one of the judges lives right here, in our own little town.
Ivo Finotti was selected from 7,000 applicants to become one of the prestigious judges in this year’s event. I asked Ivo why he felt he was selected and he attributed it to his pitch, which really zeroed in on his roots, youth and traditions.
Ivo was born in the north of Italy, in Valle San Felice, a small village of 300 inhabitants, near the larger city of Rovereto. At an early age, his parents decided to immigrate to Montreal (they had relatives there), and Ivo’s father, a marble cutter, found work immediately.
“Our family is from Northern Italy, “Ivo explained. “So we couldn’t move into Little Italy in Montreal, as we didn’t belong. Instead we lived in Ahunstic, north of Montreal.”
During his stint at St. Pius X High School and obtaining his degree at Concordia, Ivo had an interesting series of part-time jobs. He worked at Hygrade Foods (now Maple Leaf) cleaning the place. “My hours were 11 to 7 [during the night]. It was disgusting, filthy work but the pay was amazing.” He smiled, as he relived his youthful days.
Another one of Ivo’s jobs was a peanut vendor in Montreal’s Jarry Park. The process is hilarious. “I would throw the bag of peanuts from 10 or 20 rows away. I was always on target, and as a kid you felt like a hero when you caught the bag. That was even more fun than eating the peanuts.” The reason for throwing the peanuts is to ensure they end up in the right hands.
While working on his MBA, he was invited to a party by a good friend, and there met Deborah Jones. Ivo drove her home, but forgot to get her number. He searched the phone book, but couldn’t find her. He remembered she worked at Eaton’s, so off he set in an effort to find her. He did and they went on a date. A week later, Ivo proposed, but he was turned down. He proposed several more times over the next six months, and finally Deb said yes. The happy couple were married in 1978, and three years later they moved to Toronto where they raised their two girls.
Ivo spent his life in the Internet technology business, and worked for a company which catered to systems for the Four Seasons Hotel chain. Ivo’s expertise was in systems driven software, but his talents were in customer relations. He recently retired and, together with Deborah and their Golden Retriever rescue dog, Max, moved to Port Perry.
While visiting with a friend, Peter Stec, Ivo learned that Peter was evaluating a dog for therapy. Ivo was intrigued and explored the interest a bit further. Four couples applied to the St. John Ambulance course for therapy dogs. “It was a tiring test and it took a few go arounds before we were accepted,” Ivo explained.
It was during this process Ivo heard about the Walk for Guide Dogs, sponsored by the Lions Organization in Markham. He participated for three years and wanted to introduce the concept to Port Perry. Working in conjunction with Scott Riley, at Pet Valu, a date was set for the first Walk for Guide Dogs. “ I didn’t know what to expect and certainly didn’t have any idea of how much Scugog residents are committed to charitable events,” Ivo explianed.
The walk took place on May 27th and the turnout was astounding. Not only did many more people show, than anticipated, but the dollars raised were much greater than expected. Ivo adamantly confirmed the event would take place every year, going forward. It is always held on the last Sunday in May, so mark it on your calendar.
For someone who has only been in North Durham for two years, Ivo Finotti has certainly embraced the community. Along with being co-chair for the Walk for Guide Dogs, Ivo is a resident member of the Heathy Lake Scugog steering committee. He loves to swim and walk (as he puts it, “It’s a great way to shed a few pounds.”), and is focused on starting his consulting and sales training practice.
The Christmas season, among other things, is a great festive foodie time of year, and having the pleasure of sitting down with a judge in the World Tiramisu contest put me in the spirit of the season. I would like to take this opportunity to wish each of you a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2019.
Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com.
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Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.