4/30: Thank You to Sault Ste. Marie Folks

Growing up in a small town was wonderful. It was just small enough to know a lot of people and make connections between most folks. And it was just large enough that you didn’t know everyone directly.

Ample room to run around and play. And small enough that you could cut across town in 10 – 15 minutes for multiple activities per night: piano, singing, swimming, skating, gymnastics, badminton, musicals, choir, robotics, and more.

I could never name all the people from The Soo who have touched my life in such special ways. I fear this post and perhaps even the whole series may accidentally omit many folks from my earliest childhood memories. Please take no offense.

In future posts, I will highlight many more folks from The Soo by category: elementary school, high school, and related to my business. People in this post, are in a category all to themselves.

Workin’ 9 to 5

I’ve had a job since I was 15 years old. Often more than one at once. There were only 2 brief periods, for just a couple months each, where I didn’t have at least one job over the last 15 years. That’s a lot of jobs. And a lot of different people to influence you.

First, I have to thank all the ladies in the kitchen at the Marconi where I worked as a server from 2005 – 2009. My first ever job. Thank you to my many chosen Aunts & Uncles: Mrs. Vecchio, Anna-Maria, Anna, Maria (yes, 3 different people), Dominique, and Pat. Sometimes, you all scared the living daylights out of me with typical Italian screaming. But you always made me feel part of the family. And I learned about hard work from all of you. Thank you for that. Thank you also for the food for my mother’s amazing surprise 50th birthday party. I love how years later I would still come visit you to sing. If your grandkids can teach you, I’ve been singing on Instagram every day since mid-March @melkargi #singingCEO.

Cathy Marinelli was another fixture in my early work life. Cathy ran the John Rhodes Pool for forever. I still remember recording a video from my Toronto balcony for Cathy’s retirement party in 2015. I’ve since only seen her once since, on the golf course. And Cathy – I’ve been taking lessons so let’s go for a round this summer! Thank you so much for all the opportunities starting from scooping popcorn to saving swimmers.

Leo Vecchio got me hooked on social media in 2008/09. He was hip, cool, and taught me so much about marketing and communications. Leo was also one of my first adult friends as I approached/entered my 20s. Leo & Tessa’s wedding remains the most fun and one of the best I’ve ever been to. It was iconic. You’re still welcome for the gorgeous pic I candidly snapped of you 2, by the way. Thank you Leo for being a mentor for many years. I really looked up to you professionally. More than you know.

Leo introduced me to other people who shaped me too — like Teresa Martone. To connect some dots: Leo’s mom worked with me in the kitchen at the Marconi. And Teresa Martone and I mutually know someone else you’ll read about later–Michael Dingle.

Ernie’s / Chucky’s

Everyone in The Soo knows Ernie’s Coffee Shop. Which is more of a diner. And run by his son Chucky. In effect Ernie’s Coffee Shop is really Chucky’s Diner, but I digress.

Ernie’s was a fixture of my childhood. A necessary, special part of life. And while I’m so happy for Chucky for recently selling the business to retire, I will miss it.

We have eaten meals and chatted with Chucky since I was 6? 7? Well over 20 years of family friendship. His whole family knows my whole family: Chucky, his wife, mother, father, everyone. We’d celebrate their children’s weddings and grand-babies. They’d celebrate our successes in life: from winning piano contests to graduations.

There are other fixtures from my childhood and adolescence: like Cathy, Minnie, and Rob from Uncle Peter’s office. And the ever-opinionated Julie Zeppa. And probably many more I’m saving space in not naming. Thankfully my memories are boundless and there’s lots of space in my heart. Thank you all.

Here! Here! Read all about it!

Brian Kelly first wrote about me in 2008 as my brother and I went to compete for singing provincially. He posed us in front of a tree in our backyard. I wore one of the shirts I made in my aforementioned sewing classes.

Brian has been writing about me in different ways for 12 years. He is always my first call when something is happening that might be newsworthy. Like the provincial Studio Y Fellowship I got into at MaRS Discovery District – the largest innovation centre in Canada. Like the award I won from The Queen of England. Like milestones of raising funding for my start-up. And winning more awards like the Top 20 Most Innovative companies in Canada and Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.

Brian, thank you for watching and reporting my achievements over the years. Thank you for teaching me how to speak to the media too. I hope I’m getting better over time — I think so. It’s largely thanks to you.

Thank you all so much!

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