Domenico Barilaro had been knighted by his home country, Italy, and was revered in the town he called home, Queanbeyan.
The adopted father of Queanbeyan’s Italian community was farewelled at a private funeral on 25 July after he died, aged 79, on 22 July.
Domenico Barilaro’s life was a classic migrant story. He left Calabria in southern Italy when he was a young man, moving to Germany where he worked for 14 years.
He arrived by boat in Melbourne in 1968, with his wife of 54 years, Anna Maria, and headed for Queanbeyan.
They lived in White Avenue in Queanbeyan before they moved to Cooma Road and eventually settled in Surveyor Street, where they raised a family for more than 40 years.
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall said Domenico Barilaro had been a pillar of the Queanbeyan community for more than five decades.
“From successful businessman, providing career path opportunity to hundreds of locals, to the president of La Campana, which for 65 years has celebrated the unique place that those of Italian descent hold within our region and their contribution to our community, Domenico was a local community leader, devoted family man and loyal friend. We will all miss Domenico,” Mr Overall said.
One of Domenico’s four children, his son, Member for Monaro and NSW Deputy Premier, John, told Region Media that his father had lived a big and very full life.
“I’ve said in my inaugural speech to Parliament that dad was my hero and I said it during my eulogy,” John said.
“Our entire family have been honoured and privileged to have someone like him in our lives and he was just one of the most incredible people you would ever want to meet.”
Battling the complications of diabetes, Domenico died on his own terms in Queanbeyan.
“He loved Queanbeyan. He was Queanbeyan through and through and he played a big part in bringing communities together.
“I was also able to pin my gold pin as a Member of Parliament on him as a mark of his contribution to my political life.
“Maybe if his written English was better, he would have gotten into politics himself.
“He’d met all the politicians and he treated politicians the same way he’d treat the local garbo collector – he’d leave out a case of beer or wine for them every year because he respected them in exactly the same way he would meeting John Howard. That’s at the heart of who dad was,” John said.
Domenico also left his mark on the community, having helped run the multi-lingual centre in Queanbeyan which helped other migrants in the area. He was also involved with the old Marco Polo Club near Riverside Oval.
He was active in the formative years of the Inter-Monaro Soccer Club which went on to play in the national competition and is now the Monaro Panthers Football Club.
Domenico served on the Queanbeyan Hospital Board and also won many awards from the Italian and Australian governments for his volunteering work, including for when he raised money for people in Italy affected by earthquakes many decades ago.
“His most prized award was for his service to Italy when he received a knighthood by the Italian government about 10 years ago for community service and promoting the Italian culture and preserving the Italian culture abroad and upholding the Italian heritage here in Australia,” said John.
But it was his family that Domenico was most proud of, taking John under his wing as a carpenter in the joinery shops he set up in Queanbeyan.
While Domenico was recovering from a lower back injury in the 1980s, he devised a door system that won an innovators award. He was recognised as ‘inventor of the week’ on a television program at the time.
“I remember how much he taught me during those days, and he just becomes your best mate, but in politics he just kept me grounded. Dad has always been a humble man and remained that way until the end.
“He’s done well in life but his favourite pastime was always to go fishing down in Batemans Bay, or grow his own veges out the back at home or make his homebrew wine in the garage,” John recalls.
“But he measured success in the success of his whole family and I know he was proud of everybody, especially the grandkids who are all growing up and living their lives in his legacy.”
Born on 19 May 1941, Domenico Barilaro was the adored husband of Anna Maria, a father and father-in-law to Tony and Wendy, John and Deanna, Sandro and Michelle, and Angelina and David. He was also a beloved Nonno of grandchildren Alessia, Dante, Domenica, Alesio, Samuel, Dominic, Oliver, Gioia, Milana and Sofia.