Flowers for ‘hap­pi­est’ man

The Sunday Times - - BOURKE STREET BLOODSHED - STEPHEN DRILL

ICONIC cafe owner Sisto Malaspina was yes­ter­day re­mem­bered as “the hap­pi­est per­son you could imag­ine”, as Mel­bourne wept for the im­mi­grant trail­blazer of its fa­mous cof­fee cul­ture.

A sea of flowers has been laid out­side Pel­le­grini’s Bar, the 74-year-old’s Bourke Street cafe, as the city tried to com­pre­hend the loss of one of its most-loved fig­ures.

The cafe owner was just a few hun­dred me­tres from his restau­rant when ter­ror­ist Has­san Shire Ali blew up his ute in Bourke Street.

Mr Malaspina was one of the clos­est peo­ple to the ex­plo­sion and may have gone to help Shire Ali, but was in­stead stabbed in the neck, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses.

A sin­gle mum des­per­ately per­formed CPR on Mr Malaspina af­ter she saw him fall.

But the stab wound just above his col­lar­bone had punc­tured a ma­jor artery, caus­ing him to lose blood too quickly, the for­mer trainee nurse said. She said there was no chance he could sur­vive the wound.

“I know I did ev­ery­thing I could to try to save this poor man,” she said.

“I made the sign of the cross on his fore­head and said, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, at least you are now at peace’. The last bit was peace­ful but ev­ery­thing else was vi­o­lent.

“I had to wipe the blood off his brow, I needed to give him that dig­nity be­cause his face was so kind.”

Mr Malaspina wel­comed his first grand­child just over a week ago.

The hard­work­ing Ital­ian im­mi­grant was still a fix­ture in his tra­di­tional Ital­ian cafe, and had been for more than four decades, work­ing up to 70 hours a week.

Nino Pan­grazio, his co-owner in Pel­le­grini’s — the first Mel­bourne cafe to have an espresso ma­chine and which had be­come a tourist at­trac­tion in the city — was dis­traught. “Such a sad day for Mel­bourne. He loved life. He was al­ways happy. Never a bad word, never a dull mo­ment,” he said yes­ter­day. “The hap­pi­est per­son you could imag­ine. Al­ways had a smile. Al­ways had a smile for a pretty face, al­ways with a joke.”

Os­car-win­ning ac­tor Russell Crowe, Wig­gle Anthony Field, Olympian Tam­syn Lewis, Vic­to­rian Premier Daniel An­drews and Fed­eral Op­po­si­tion Leader Bill Shorten were among those who paid tribute.

Mr Shorten laid a wreath at the cafe which Mr Malaspina, who ar­rived in Aus­tralia in 1963, took over in 1974.

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