Zuccolo Family

Catherine Parrine Zuccolo By Wendy Vaughan

Catherine Zuccolo, affectionately known as “Aunt Katy” to all her nieces and nephews, and “Katy” by everyone else, had a wide variety of interests. She graduated from Normal School in Calgary during the 1930s, a time when jobs were not easy to come by. Katy taught in several schools over the years but also cooked for various bridge and oil well crews for a period of time. When Grandma and Grandpa Zuccolo retired to Cochrane, Aunt Katy was always there to look after them during periods of illness. She spent some time out on Saturna Island where Grandpa had property in the late 1940s. Katy was very well-read; she could discuss nearly any topic intelligently. She taught many things to many of her nieces and nephews over the years.

She was very interested in health issues, and many of us received her lectures on vitamins and proper eating habits – long before such topics were acceptable! She was also a very spiritual person who led by example 

She was kind, thoughtful and generous with her time when it came to helping her sisters and their families during busy times. 

Katy was also an avid gardener. She had a good-sized garden at the house in Cochrane and raised most of her own vegetables which she could store in her basement from one season to another. She always had beautiful peonies and roses growing at the front of her house. Like Uncle Johnny, she was always building, fixing and tinkering with things. She was never afraid to try new things. She started skiing when she was 65.

She was an excellent cook. In my mind, no one made apple pie as good as Aunt Katy, not even Mum, and her apple pies were very good. However, I have often seen a resemblance to Aunt Katy in our daughter, Alberta. In my opinion, besides certain personality traits, Alberta has Aunt Katys knack for baking good pies. Aunt Katy would be proud of this if she were here today. Aunt Katy has left us many fond memories

Matilda (Richards) Zuccolo Family By Wendy (Richards) Vaughan 

The story of the Richards and Zuccolo families from the early 1900s when they both arrived in the Morley and Cochrane areas, respectively, is recorded in the original Big Hill Country book published in 1977. There is some overlap of the stories due to the dates involved, but I have chosen to pick up on the stories of the members of the Zuccolo family which stayed in the Cochrane area after the first book was written, and on the whole, to add to rather than repeating the original histories

My parents, Matilda (Tillie) Zuccolo and Jim Richards were married on October 27, 1937. They met in 1931 when Tillie was teaching the Tom Lauder children. Tillie was a graduate of “Normal School” in Calgary, a two year program which at that time was the graduating school for teachers. Tom Lauder and his family were working for Laycocks (located west of Cochrane, Alberta now known as Jamieson Road), and Tillie lived with them and taught the Lauder children from September of 1931 through to January of 1933. The romance did not truly blossom how ever, until Tillie was teaching Laurie and Jean Johnson’s girls in 1936.

After Jim and Tillie married they lived on Jim’s homestead North of Morley. They moved a log cabin which Tillie owned up to the homestead. The cabin had been located on Guy Gibson’s Soldier grant down by the Ghost River. For the next five years, they worked in the mountains for Fred Brewster during the summers and lived on their homestead in the winters. While they worked in the mountains, mainly out of Jasper, Jim acted as a big game guide and Tillie cooked. They had many interesting experiences while in the mountains, and it is unfortunate Mum did not write these up, as most of them are now lost forever. They took out many hunters from the U.S. and had both great and not-so-great trips. Big game hunters now only dream of getting game that was commonplace to shoot then. 

Tillie recalls that times were not always easy to back in the late 1930s and early 1940’s when she and Jim were first married. Guy Gibson had given her a mare and colt for a wedding present, and in 1944 she sold the old mare with the four colts that she had by then. She had to add $2.00 to the money received for the mare and colts to buy their cream separator which cost $39.40. 

Jim and Tillie settled down permanently to ranching in 1943 when their daughter, Wendy, was born. A son, Doug, was born in 1946. 

Over the years, they increased their range cattle herd and also milked 5 or 6 cows every summer and shipped the cream. They would take it to Morley where it would be picked up by the train and taken to a creamery in Calgary. Jim also hayed for the Lindners at the Two Rivers Ranch west of Cochrane every summer from the late 1940s to mid-1950s. Dad also became the councillor for the Improvement District in his area in the 1960s and also sat on the Rockyview Hospital Board. When he passed away in March of 1976, they asked Mum to take his place, which she did. She remained active as a Councillor and on the Hospital Board until her illness prevented her from attending to her duties at which time she resigned in early 1985. 

A few items about our family as I (Wendy) remember growing up. I recall well the early days at home when Uncle Bill and Uncle Audley were living on their homestead next to Dad’s. The recollection I most remember is that they always rode in on horseback, and Uncle Audley, particularly, often corralled horses at our place. (See the poem, Uncle Audley, A vanishing Breed). I recall Dad and Uncle Audley bringing in numbers of horses, especially in the spring, and pulling their manes and tails. The horsehair was then stuffed into gunny sacks and weighed and sold by the pound. I also remember that it was not taken too kindly if someone pulled the tails of another party’s horses. 

My brother, Doug, never went to school, and I only went to school in grade 12. We took all the rest of our school by correspondence. Some of the local kids wondered how we could stand doing school at home, but we thought it was O.K. as we were able to work hard some days and take days off if we wanted to go somewhere or do other things. Also, we usually had our work done at least a month ahead of kids in school and enjoyed long summer holidays to do as we wished. Our close neighbours were the Dawsons and the next closest were the Wasson’s (about 8 miles by horseback). We would often ride to each other’s places to visit and play and as we were all in the same age group, we had a lot of good times together. One of our favourite sports was to go out on the “Point”, a flat area on the south side of the Ghost River where the land was quite flat and reasonably smooth for a couple of miles. Here we would line up our ponies and have horse races, which I’m sure would not have been totally approved of by our respective parents had they known of them at the time. I remember that my old white mare, Josephine, would often win some of these races. 

It was a difficult time for our family when Dad (Jim) passed away in 1976 from a heart attack. Mum (Tillie) remained in the home place and finished the new house which she and Dad had started. Mum passed away in November of 1985 following an eight-month struggle with bone cancer. Five years before she had gone through surgery for breast cancer, and had been given a clean bill of health only a couple of months prior to being diagnosed with bone cancer. 

Wendy married Walter Vaughan of the Dog Pound area (see The Vaughan’s story). They now live on the Vaughan place east of Bottrel. They have two daughters, Alberta (Corey) Telfer and Amanda (Roggero Ciofani). Alberta and Corey blessed us with our first grandchild, Una Vaughan Telfer on May 5th, 2007. They are currently residing in Edmonton, while Amanda and Roggero are living in Saskatoon. 

Doug married Jill Harries of Calgary (also a school teacher), and they reside on Tillie and Jim’s home place. They have two sons, Jimmy and Billy. 

I have included three poems with this write-up, one about Mum, one about Dad and one about Uncle Audley. They tell a lot about their lifestyle. I hope you enjoy them.

John Peter Zuccolo By Wendy Vaughan

“Uncle Johnny” the only son of Tom and Angelina Zuccolo, born April 18, 1907, was loved by all his nieces and nephews, and many of them experienced at least one fishing trip with him in either Spray Lakes or Kananaskis. Fishing was his passion, but I only got to go with him twice, we never got a single bite either time and we were out for several days, so I was bad luck!! He read a lot and always had new ideas for doing or building things. 

He was also very mechanical and was always fixing or tinkering with mechanical items from small engines to vehicles and farm equipment. After the Zuccolo farm was sold in the late 1940’s he moved onto a small piece of land on the Horsecreek northwest of Cochrane. He worked for several farmers off and on over the years including George Perrenoud and Tom Hardy. In the late 1960’s he built a small cabin by the lake at Richards’ where he resided until his passing in 1990. 

Uncle Johnny was like a beaver, he was always building something. At the same time, he would profess that he didn’t like carpentry work! He and his Dad were responsible for building a number of large barns, some of which are still standing northwest of Cochrane. They also worked with other members of the community in building the Dartique Hall. 

He was also very creative building various items with light and dark cedar. His outhouse was a masterpiece! Many of us have items Uncle Johnny built with light and dark cedar.

He also lost his right leg just below the knee in a motorcycle accident in California in the late 1940s, but this did not hamper him from doing many things. Most people would not know he had a wooden leg if they had not been told. He spent his entire life in the Cochrane area. He was quite shy but liked kids, and once you got to know him he could be quite a tease with a good sense of humour. 

John passed away on August 16, 1990. 

Thomas and Angelina Zuccolo Family by Wendy Vaughan

Please see the complete history of the Zuccolo family in the first Big Hill Country book. They immigrated to Slocan, British Columbia in 1905 from Italy two weeks after they were married. However, Grandpa had come to Canada in 1903. As Grandpa could not see a future in the Slocan Valley, he purchased the W Sec 5 Twp 28 Range 4 W5M in the Horse Creek area. In 1919 he moved from British Columbia with his wife, Angelina, and their children: Mary, John, Catherine (Katy), Elsie, Matilda (Tillie), and Adelma (Pete). Alma (Slim) was born on January 28, 1920, after their arrival in Alberta. 


They farmed this land until they sold it in 1948, currently owned by Buck Miller. They bought a small house in Cochrane, two houses to the right and against the hill as you go up the road to the Cochrane High School. They resided in Cochrane where Grandpa was an avid gardener. He also did odd carpenter, yard and miscellaneous jobs for Cochrane residents for many years. Granny (Angelina) passed away on April 14, 1956, at the age of 73. Grandpa (Thomas) passed away on January 4, 1965, at the age of 89. Their daughter, Katy, lived with them and took care of them during their senior years and took over the house after they passed on. 

Mary married Mel Hodgkins in November of 1932. At the time Mel was a trooper in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse. They lived in Calgary and later moved to Ontario where Mel was a member of the Ontario Provincial Police until he retired. They had three children: Olive, Owen and Allen. Mary died in 2004 at the age of 97. 

In 1944 Elsie married Dr. Eric Putt, an agronomist, when they were both working in Hamilton, Ontario. Elsie, who worked at Westinghouse, helped to turn out guns and other war material for the Canadian Forces. They moved to Altona, Manitoba and later to Morden, Manitoba where Eric worked at the Agriculture Research Station. Elsie and Eric had four children: 

David, Laurel, Keith and Neal, prior to Elsies untimely passing in 1956 with cancer

In 2003 the 100th Anniversary of the Zuccolo Family’s arrival in Canada was celebrated at Doug and Jill Richards. It was an awesome event with fifteen of Thomas and Angelina’s grandchildren present, plus spouses, and great grandchildren. Only one grandchild was unable to attend. Alma (Slim) was the only one of their children able to attend. Mary was still alive but not well enough to come. It was a great time. We made quite an extensive family history book for each leg of the family with each of the grandchildren receiving a copy. This is already proving to be a family treasure. 

Uncle Audley - A Vanishing Breed By Wendy Vaughan

He was tall and slim 

With a twinkle in his eye 

His Stetson hat was gray 

The kind with the crown real high. 


He always rode a horse 

That a cowboy would call good. 

Meaning he could do some work 

And take you down the road. 


Uncle Audley was a horseman 

A little hard, some would say 

But you knew horse he rode 

Could pack you night and day. 


His left arm had been injured 

And had healed up at an angle, 

But this was no deterrent 

When it came time for him to wrangle. 


One day I saw him bring in 

A wild bunch all alone, 

Corralled them at our place 

Then cut out the stud – a big bald faced blue roan.


He took the rope down off his saddle 

And with the coils on his left arm 

He front-footed that big stud 

And brought him to the ground. 


His moves were smooth and quiet 

And as he tied that big horse up 

He saw me watching through the logs, 

And asked me to get some table salt from Moth 

metal cup. 


He was waiting when I returned, 

I passed it to his bloodstained hand 

And watched him fill the empty pockets, 

The horse – no longer king of his wild band. 


I think if this day whenever 

I see horsemen without skills, 

Who call out vets in white coats 

With tranquilizer guns and pills. 


Yes, Uncle Audley, 

It leaves me sad to think 

That you were one of a special breed, 

That’s now almost extinct.

The Day Mother Shot A Bear By Wendy Vaughan

She was blessed with many talents 

A few with you I’ll share

Before I relate to you the tale

Of the day she shot a bear. 


Mum could paint a landscape

With the stroke of her oil brush

Or photograph a mountain flower 

Or a bird in the underbrush. 


When we were young she made 

All the clothes we had

From shirts, jeans and moccasins,

To those buckskin coats for Dad.


I remember when just knee high

An embroidered satin shirt she made 

For Chuck Simeon to wear

To the Calgary Stampede Parade. 


Her homemade brown bread 

Was far and wide renowned

But for me, it was wild blueberry pie

For which she should be crowned. 


Mother was a crack shot 

With a Twenty-Two

For backshot squirrels were worthless 

When Simpson & Lee paid you. 


She could milk a cow or stretch a wire 

And packed water from the well

To wash our clothes, and sawed the wood 

To heat it with as well. 


She loved to pick wild berries 

When summer came along

And would ride six miles to the berry patch, 

With syrup tins hanging from the thongs. 


And whether the beauty of a butterfly

Or pulling quills from our old dog,

She taught us kids to respect 

The handiwork of God. 


And at Thanksgiving time each year 

She’d take the Twenty-Two

And with us kids she’d walk the woods 

‘Till we got a ruffled grouse or two. 


She’d shoot them through the head 

And we’d skin them on the spot

So why wouldn’t we be proud of her 

When a bear she finally shot? 


It was back there in the 60’s 

When Banff had problem bears

They’d paint their butts and tag their ears 

And truck them out of there. 


Then dump them in the foothills 

And let the ranchers rant

At these pesky Park dump bears 

Who’d never learned to hunt. 


Well Mum was home alone this day 

When she heard a noise outside

And there was a scruffy blackbear 

Pawing the anthill in our yard. 


The anthill beneath a poplar tree

Was 20 yards from our front door

And Mother anxious at a bear so close

Thought she’d give him a little scare. 


So taking Dad’s 30/30 down 

She levered in a shell

Aimed it at the bear’s thick neck

And pulled the trigger, well – 


That bear dropped right where he stood 

And never moved again

Then as Mum’s luck would have it

Our neighbour, Fred*, drove in. 


When Mum answered the door 

Fred looked around to see

Who might have shot that bear

That lay tagged beneath the tree? 


The gun was resting on the door jam 

So she told her tale to Fred 

And he who loved to talk and tea

Did not linger, for he had news to spread. 


We had no phones in those days

But with Fred the news would pass 

On down the valley quickly

Like a fire in prairie grass. 

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