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A tribute to...

Francesca Abascia

Published: Mon 27th Jun 2022

Newcomb resident Francesca Abascia (left) with husband Mimmo, daughter Lisa, granddaughter Kassandra and great grandson Noah.
Newcomb resident Francesca Abascia (left) with husband Mimmo, daughter Lisa, granddaughter Kassandra and great grandson Noah.

Lovely Bank's Francesca Abascia died last month at age 78. More than 100 family and friends farewelled the much-loved nonna at a service hosted by Kings Funerals.

Her daughter Lisa Gray paid tribute to "my mum, my friend, my confidante and my strength."

With the family's permission, we share her moving eulogy.

Mum was born in Cerignola, Italy, on March 7, 1944, to parents Pietro and Concetta. Our grandparents had Rosetta and Tonino before Francesca, who became a big sister to Lucia. Life was hard in rural Italy post-war and at the age of 14, mum and her family moved north to Torino for a more prosperous life. Only a couple of years later she met the love of her life, our dad Mimmo. They married in December 1962 and I came along in March 1965.

In May 1969, along with many other Italians, the three of us left our big Italian family for a short two-year adventure in Australia. Mum always told me that the month-long sea voyage from Genova to Melbourne was the best time of her life. The days were leisurely lunches, promenade walks, coffees and then the evenings when mum came to life with music and dancing.

I can't remember a time when mum wouldn't start jigging whenever there was music playing and in fact, one of my favourite memories is the pleasure I would get at watching my parents on the dance floor.

Australia was a challenge at first and in fact after only three days in the country, mum sent dad off to the Italian embassy demanding to go back home as this was a horrible mistake. The fellow there told dad to give it a couple of weeks and if they still felt the same, to come back. Clearly, they didn't and so started their new life in Melbourne.

In 1971 our family was completed with the arrival of my brother Alex. By then mum and dad had settled in and met quite a few new people who would become not only lifelong friends, but family - some of whom are here today.

As happens to many migrants, the lure and memories of the homeland became too great for mum and dad and in 1981 we packed and headed back to Torino. Again like many before them, 12 years of changes and different experiences meant they were torn between lifestyles and after only one year, we were back in Australia for good. Shortly after arriving, we became proud Australian citizens and our future was settled.

Francesca Abascia grew up in the Italian village of Cerignola but her life’s path would take her all the way to Geelong, Victoria.
Francesca Abascia grew up in the Italian village of Cerignola but her life’s path would take her all the way to Geelong, Victoria.

Mum was an extremely hard worker and started her working life in Australia as a machinist, however, she eventually got a job doing what she loved most and became the head cook at the Abruzzo Social Club in Epping (and later cooked at the Bell Park Sports Club). These were happy times as this work combined her love of cooking, socialising and of course, music.

Her dream of becoming a nonna was fulfilled in 1991 when her beloved granddaughter Kassandra was born, and the dream continued in 1994 when she held her grandson Daniel for the first time. Her grandchildren become the centre of her universe and Alex and I soon realised our place in the pecking order was gone forever.

The Italian connection was completed in 2000 when my cousin Robbie joined us here in Australia and Mum had her nephew close by to love and look after. Robbie, his wife Assunta and their daughters Ariana & Lara were dearly loved by my mum and I know how much pleasure she got planning the menu for her big Italian family, which of course now included Frank and his children.

In 2003 the need to be closer to the grandchildren had mum and dad move to Geelong.

She was happiest at the many special moments in her grandchildren's lives including university and academy graduations, Kassandra and Seth's wedding and of course, the birth of our little Noah who was the light of her life. (The pecking order went out of the window after Noah arrived, we were all pushed down that famous ladder!)

Mum had the sweetest nature and her house was always open to everyone. She was nonna to all of the kids' friends and there was always food ready at the drop of a hat whenever they called in. Her family was her first priority, and nothing was ever too much for her.

She was my mum, my friend, my confidante and my strength. Forever in my heart …

Originally published as Lovely Banks nonna Francesca Abascia farewelled


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