Filomena Pace celebrates 90th birthday and recalls 64 years living in Melville

Filomena Pace surrounded by her late husband’s favourite flowers.
Filomena Pace surrounded by her late husband’s favourite flowers.

FILOMENA Pace, who is set to celebrate her 90th birthday on May 18, will always call Australia home.

In 1945, she met and fell in love with her husband of 66 years, Salvatore, in a small town near Naples in Italy.

Mrs Pace arrived in Australia on August 18, 1952 after a month-long journey by boat, following her husband who had arrived two years earlier in the search for opportunity.

Mrs Pace and her husband worked tirelessly to build a new life from scratch despite complications; Mrs Pace did speak English when she arrived, nor read or write.

The pair had six daughters, their oldest daughter the only one to be born in Italy.

She picked up the foreign language instantly at the age of two, acting as a translator for Mrs Pace until she too could converse fluently.

“We worked very hard to be where we are,” Mrs Pace said.

In 1954, they bought their first block in Melville, surrounded by nothing but bush and a single dirt road that is now Marmion Street.

The pair built their home from the ground up. With no water or electricity, Mrs Pace would travel a few streets away with a drum to carry water home.

Daughter Tomasina Pace said: “They had to make their own life here, they built it from nothing.”

Not owning a car until 1970, Mr Pace would ride a bike to his work as a labourer, often as far as Kwinana.

Mrs Pace said when he was not working, Mr Pace found pride in the back yard, his passion lying in the vegie patch outside the family home.

While Mr Pace worked long hours, Mrs Pace would be at home with the girls.

Using a pedal sewing machine, she altered Red Dingo flourmill bags into articles of clothing, making sure the girls matched and looked “immaculate” before they left the house.

Despite the language difficulties, Mrs Pace always had a gift with numbers, looking after the finances for the home and venturing to Perth once a month with the girls to make their mortgage payment.

Mrs Pace said she could not be prouder of her girls, unable to imagine surviving without their support.

Mrs Pace is slowing down and enjoying the little things in life, such as visits from her nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, the odd manicure and tending to her garden, a tribute to Salvatore, who died a few years ago.

Mrs Pace will celebrate her birthday surrounded by her family at a lunch at the Royal Fremantle Golf Club.