John Rota (April 24, 1899 – May 9, 1965)
Honoured by Michael and Aldo Rota.
A simple loaf of bread, a cup of sugar and a container of lard gave someone who was down and out or riding the rails during the Depression a helping hand. Thanks to our father, John Rota, (through City Bakery, the business he founded in 1924) North Bay’s most vulnerable were helped along their way during the Depression and for many years after.
When he spoke to people, whether the poorest of the poor or prominent, affluent citizens, Dad gave everyone his time, attention and respect. He opened his door to Italian immigrants who arrived in North Bay searching for family and helped them connect with their waiting relatives.
Dad’s word or handshake was his bond. He was a no nonsense humble man with a good sense of humour, a big laugh, and a genuine concern for others. The vegetables he grew in his magnificent
garden yielded many bushels of produce for the Precious Blood Nuns, friends and neighbours. He devoted two hours every Friday afternoon to visit the sick at St. Joseph’s Hospital to talk to and console and comfort patients in the hospital, many he didn’t know. He proudly served the community as a 4th Degree in the Knights of Columbus.
It was these qualities that defined Dad’s character and made a lasting impression on the people he met and the lives he touched.
As a young man of 13 years of age, Dad immigrated to Canada in 1912 from Pietrafitta Calabria in Southern Italy with our grandparents, Michael and Teresa (nee Gatto), who were hard working people with a dream of building a better life in the new world.
Dad grew up to share that dream and at 16 became a railroad man with Temiskaming Northern Ontario (TNO) Railway. As fate would have it, he met a fellow immigrant from Pietrafitta who owned a bakery across the street from the train station in Cochrane where Dad would work on his layovers. He learned the bakery trade and eventually left the railway to start his own bakery
business. He worked hard to provide for his family and his community. From 1922 til his death in 1965, Dad provided for the community of North Bay in a big way.
From 1922 to 1924, before municipal government was formed, Dad voluntarily organized a work crew from TNO and the neighbourhood to blast rock and build water and sewer infrastructure
facilities on Worthington Street from John St to Whitson St, that were relied on, without failure for many years. Some of the infrastructure is still in use today.
With the construction completed, Dad established City Bakery, also known as home of Aunt May’s
Bread. It grew under his tireless work ethic, eventually producing more than 17,000 loaves daily in 1957 that were delivered door-to-door in North Bay and transported throughout the region from
Verner to Pembroke and Moosonee to Gravenhurst. Dad not only baked the bread but he built
the horse drawn delivery wagons and cared for and shod the horses that pulled them until 1963.
At 47 years of age, Dad married mom, Gina (nee Regonaschi) (July 17, 1909 to May 3, 1999), his wonderful partner in life. They raised my brother Aldo and me and instilled in us his values, ethics and respect for community.
In the end, our Dad was satisfied knowing that his life’s work, in his small way, did a lot of good for this world and his family. It’s that life lesson that remains a beacon in our memory of his life.
I think of and honour the memory of my Dad each and every day when I sign the “J” in my name, an act of remembrance and respect to a man who never wavered from being a great human being. A man I am very proud to have had as my Dad.
– Michael J. Rota –