Their 60 year partnership
Celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary recently, Gino and Dora Santarossa are very much an integral part of this Shire’s community, as
Sixty years married is quite an achievement but to Gino and Dora Santarossa, as nice as it was, they took it in their stride but it was a good excuse for a party.
Gino Santarossa and Dora Noli went to St Augustine’s school in Mossman together, although Gino was in a year ahead of Dora.
“I didn’t like him at all when we were at school,” Dora said.
It appears Gino had a different view as he admitted that at 13 years of age he decided that Dora was the one he would eventually marry.
“When I was to do my debutant, Gino was the only boy who had a suit, so I asked him to partner me,” Dora said. Gino calls it his “entrapment suit”.
They were certainly different days for courting and Dora described how they had to have a chaperone just to go to the beach.
This debutant ball was held in the Mossman Shire Hall in 1955. Two years later Gino and Dora got married in St Augustine’s Church and had their reception for about 200 people in the Buffs Hall on Junction Road.
“All the young cousins had to get together to pluck dozens of chooks for the wedding breakfast,” Dora explained.
Later that year, a daughter arrived and she would be the first of 14 children – Rose Marie, Steven, Bernadette, Peter, Christine, John, Michael, Donna, Gregory, Zita, Nicholas, Terence, Helen and Kim.
And yes, Gino did offer the excuse that “there was no television back then”.
Gino and Dora were cane farmers like their families before them and they lived in a small, timber house on their 125 acre property just north of Mossman. As a new family member arrived, which happened every 13 to 17 months, Gino would get busy either building on or modifying the house to accommodate the growing brood. The house, where they still live, has large rooms which were like dormitories for the boys and girls.
It is ‘common knowledge’ that Dora is a great cook and with so many mouths to feed, her cooking skills were always being utilised.
“We always had enough food and plenty of hands to help with meals,” Dora said, “and when it came to bath time, the older ones would grab a younger one to take into the bath or the shower with them.”
In 1983 Gino and Dora left Rose Marie in charge of the household and went to Italy to see their relatives. Gino’s family came from the Venice area and Dora’s from near the Swiss border and the Isle of Elba.
“Rose Marie was a good sergeant and organised the kids really well whilst we were away,” Dora said, “and although it seemed that anytime we went away one of them would have a trip to the hospital, everyone was fine when we returned.”
Gino worked their cane fields and looks back on those years, categorised as “good prices and bad prices”. The house was however always filled with laughter and music.
“We have a room off the back of the house we call the music room and most of the kids can play an instrument,” Dora said.
“Some of them formed bands, Rose Marie teaches music and Jov (John) is a very good lead guitarist.”
Being a large Italian family, gathering together at meal times is a valued part of their culture. The Santarossa family has a Sunday lunch each week with pasta and chicken and up to 30 members of the extended family assemble at the house for a couple of hours of good family time. They have 46 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren.
“Every alternate year we have Christmas dinner here and we end up with about 100 people sitting out under the stars,” Dora said, “and everyone brings something and I make vegetable soup and bake the ham.
“Santa visits, arriving on the back of a ute, a mower or tractor and Rose Marie plays Christmas carols and we gather around the piano for a singalong,” she said.
“And every year, Dora and I have to sit on Santa’s lap,” Gino laughs.
The Santarossa family is one built on love and Christian generosity. Mossman residents know Gino and Dora to be always ready to help out when needed and nothing is too much trouble. “They are the sort of people who make you feel they are family to us all,” says one resident who knows the family well.
Nothing got wasted in the family and some of the children could sometimes be seen wearing some very ‘creative’ clothes, made from left over curtain material or whatever was available.
When asked the secret to a happy marriage, they both laughed and shrugged their shoulders in unison, as if practiced.
Then, in a hushed voice, Gino leant over, smiled and said, “mutual respect – and learning to say yes.”
Gino and Dora today. Inset above: With their 14 children. Right: their wedding in 1957