A Celebration of Life for Albert Battistoni was filled with laughter, tears and many, many puns.
Albert, one of Collingwood Neighbourhood House’s (CNH) longest-serving volunteers and a fixture in CNH’s lobby, died earlier this year. He was 89.
“He chose to be in this place and with these people to share all of his contributions, humour and loving nature and this feels like a blessing,” former CNH executive director and current community strategist for Renfrew-Collingwood intercultural development Paula Carr said. She added she felt deep gratitude for having had Albert in her life and in the lives of those who work at, or are involved with, CNH.
Albert arrived at CNH in the early 1990s, to join the Seniors’ Wellness Group. He soon started volunteering around CNH, then located in a small storefront on Kingsway. Over the years, Albert volunteered in increasing amounts until he eventually spent part of every day, seven days at week at CNH.
Former CNH president Bill McMichael, who served as master of ceremonies for the celebration and even played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, noted Albert’s clever word play in the puns he continually told everybody. He even quoted a few: “You can tune a guitar but you can’t tuna fish.” And “Two peanuts walked into a bar and one was a salted.”
Michael McLenaghen, CNH director of community services, recalled how Albert would watch for children who were attempting to escape by sprinting down the hall or even running out the front door.
“Albert reminded me of a cross between a hawk and a border collie. He would see and notice everything and he had great herding instincts as he guided children back to their caregiver.”
Albert, whose family emigrated to Canada from Italy and then opened and ran Venice Bakery, grew up in Vancouver. Among the 125 people present at the celebration were a group of his peers who grew up on or around Prior Street.
Attendees admired Albert’s volunteer awards, on display at the celebration. They included CNH volunteer certificates for every year since 1993, the 2004 Association of Neighbourhood Houses Good Neighbour Award and the 2010 United Way W.J. VanDusen Community Service Award for remarkable commitment and dedication to volunteerism.
Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News