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30 March, 2022

Celebrating 70 years of married life

SEVENTY years of marriage, four children, 10 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren – Giuseppe and Rita Salerno certainly had a lot to celebrate when family and friends gathered in Mareeba on 14 March to mark the special milestone for the couple.


The couple, who were married in 1952 celebrated 70 years of marriage at their home in Mareeba.

Both in their early 20s, the pair were wed on 14 March, 1952 in their small town of Fagnano Castello, nestled in the mountains of southern Calabria, before Giuseppe took off for Australia later that year. 

Just 21 years old at the time, Rita had to stay behind while Giuseppe worked hard to establish a home for the family in Mareeba. Eight years later, he returned to Italy where he met his first-born son, Pantaleo, and stayed for nearly a year before the whole family came back to Australia. 

The couple’s other children – Armando, Maria and Lisa – were all born in Australia. 

Giuseppe says the decision to move to Australia was all “in the hope of a better life for our family”. 

He remembers how difficult life was in Italy in the 1940s when he was 15 years, as war raged around him. 

“Food was scarce because of the war. We had grain but we couldn’t process it because the Germans and Carabinieri would take it all to feed troops on the front lines,” Giuseppe recalled. 

“We had to stay in hiding all the time and we worked in the hope that they would pay us something, anything to feed ourselves.”

Rita and Giuseppe Salerno in their early 20s

But arriving in Australia and trying to establish himself and a place for his family was not easy either. 

“Life in Australia was not like it is today – there was hardship, but we battled on,” he said. 

Since arriving in Mareeba, Giuseppe has worked all his life farming tobacco, purchasing his farm at Emerald Creek in partnership with Armando Quintieri in 1971, then buying it outright in 1975. 

The couple still reside at the farm where they live out their senior years peacefully. 

Blessed with good health, Giuseppe is still physically capable and has a clear memory of the past, while Rita has had some health challenges which means she needs assistance walking. 

As an avid gardener, Giuseppe says the couple thoroughly enjoy their life on the farm “where there is room to move”. 

Ask Giuseppe what makes a good day and he will tell you the “best days are when we have food and drink on the table”. 

To that end, Giuseppe reckons one of the secrets to his long life is having hot chilli, a taste he has acquired over time, for breakfast every day and he doesn’t mind “the odd beer or three”.

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