Nonna Mila’s Super Family

The Walk For Alzheimer’s brings together thousands of community members across Canada who all have a common goal: to end Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Many of those who participate know someone who lives or has lived with the disease, and fundraising is a great way to support and honour them. This week, Tamar Atik writes about Nonna Mila’s Super Family. Quotes that are attributed to the family or grandchildren include answers that were collectively compiled for this article. Tamar Atik is the Etobicoke Walk communications coordinator.

Five children, 15 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. That’s Emilia Moretti‘s legacy.

Her family has come together and taken the Etobicoke Walk For Alzheimer’s by storm raising more than $3,000 so far.

Officially called Team Moretti, this is the family’s first time participating since Emilia’s passing in 2016. 

Nonna Mila, as she is called by her grandchildren, immigrated to Etobicoke, Ont., from Italy in 1958 with four young sons (the fifth was born in Canada). Her husband had preceded them to prepare for the family’s move.

Emilia loved to reminisce about the past and growing up in Italy. Her family recalls her describing hardships, especially for women. After telling her stories, her family says Nonna Mila would finish with, “Back then things were troubling for some reasons, now they are troubling for others. That’s the way of progress I guess.”

 Emilia worked tirelessly to raise her boys and look after her family, and could not have been prouder to see the men they grew up to be, her grandchildren say. “She was happiest around friends and family, whether it was Sunday lunch with her children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren!) or weekdays at the Sam McCallion Day Centre,” the family remembers. “Her face lit up when you entered the room to greet her, and she always had a warm and very hearty hug ready for you.”

Leading Team Moretti is Natalie Moretti, Emilia’s 14th grandchild. “Having such a big and supportive family definitely made this whole experience easy,” she says. “The whole family was very receptive to the idea and we’re using it not only to raise money for a cause that’s close to heart, but also to get the family together and to celebrate her memory.”

“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be challenging, even with a large family support system,” the family says. “It can be made easier however with the help and support of individuals and organizations like the Alzheimer Society.” The family also credits the Alzheimer’s day program at the Sam McCallion Day Centre, which helped create a stable routine for Emilia. 

“Nonna valued family and cultural traditions,” her grandchildren say. “She made sure to pass these traditions onto her sons, and share them with new family members as her family grew. Her sons proudly continue these traditions, and in turn, are also passing them along to their sons and daughters.” 

When asked what their favourite things to do with Nonna Mila were, her grandchildren had a hard time narrowing them down. “Undoubtedly, we all had our own favourite thing to do with Nonna! One thing we most certainly would agree on is that Nonna let us ‘just be kids’… As kids we’d play in her basement, making forts out of couch cushions and old bed sheets. She didn’t ever cut our fun early, even when we got raucous or designed overly elaborate forts.” 

“As adults, we loved to chat with her over dinner or watch her play with her great-grandchildren,” her grandchildren note. “She loved to read picture books with the kids. Sometimes it was hard to tell who was telling who the story, and who was having more fun!”

“For the first 20 years of my life, I lived next door to Nonna and Nonno… And I always remember Nonna would let me do anything I wanted as kid – whether it be trying on her shoes and walking around the house, or feeding the birds way too many crackers…” granddaughter Daniella Moretti recalls.

“In 2012, I spent a semester studying abroad,” Natalie remembers. “Before coming home, I decided to take a trip to my grandparent’s hometown in Italy, see the house that my grandmother grew up in and meet extended family members for the first time. When I arrived home from my studies, I told my grandmother all about my travels. She was glowing! I’ve never seen her more excited and more engaged, asking question after question about my experience in her hometown and recollecting stories about our family members. I felt so privileged to not only have been to see my roots, but also have the opportunity to share my experience with my grandmother.”

Granddaughter Stefania Di Verdi’s favourite memory is from her adulthood. “A few years ago I got married. We lived together at the time and every day she would ask me the same question, ‘When do we get to toss the confetti?’ On my wedding day, I turned to her and said proudly, ‘Nonna, today we get to toss the confetti.’ The look on her face was sheer joy.” 

“By walking, we are doing our part to support not only our loved ones, but other community members who have been or will be touched by Alzheimer’s,” the family says. “The Alzheimer Society does very important work, and they need our continued support.” 

Join the Moretti family at the Walk For Alzheimer’s or you can donate to their campaign here.


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