A Truly Amazing Love Story: from Rotterdam to Sault Ste. Marie

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by Gail Disano

This is a story about the celebration of life and more importantly, a celebration of a truly amazing love story; and their love story continues today. To know Nan Disano was to know that nothing meant more to her than her adored husband Russell of 72 years and her two sons.

Their story began with the Liberation of Holland in 1945. Russell Disano being a proud Canadian soldier joined his fellow troops in Rotterdam, Holland, to help bring peace and liberate the war torn city during World War II. One day while on duty, Russell spotted a beautiful lady he knew he would one day call his wife and become his pride and joy.

Via Rotterdam
After five years of tyranny, almost to the day, the euphoric Dutch crowds came out to greet them at every town along the maple leaf route. Dutch civilians celebrating the liberation of the Netherlands. Photographer: Lieut. G. Barry Gilroy

Through casual conversation Russell learned that Nan’s father was in a concentration camp and her family was starving. Russell being the kind soul he is would sneak food from the mess hall and hand it over to Nan to help feed Nans’ mother, brother and baby sister.

Now Nan was no foolish lady and knew that Russell was a good man and 6 weeks later they were engaged and married 8 months later. Nan left her beloved family in Holland and took a ship to Pier 21 in Nova Scotia and from there she rode a train to Sudbury. Nan was met there by Russell’s’ Italian speaking family who were excited to meet their son’s beautiful new bride and take her to her new home town in Sault Ste. Marie.

Russell, who was still on duty in Holland, later joined Nan in Sault Ste. Marie. Because of the time spent in the army, Russell had a choice to accept money, a house or post secondary education assistance from the government. Russell chose wisely and together with his new bride they moved to Kingston where Russell attended Queen’s University and earned his Metallurgical Engineering degree.

The first of their two sons’ was born while in Kingston and after completing his degree Russell, Nan and their infant son Geoffrey returned to Sault Ste. Marie. Things were not always easy but with hard work, love and dedication for each other, Nan and Russ started to build the foundation of their lives together.

After a short period of time, Nans’ family moved from Holland and joined Russell and Nan in Sault Ste. Marie. This was obviously a very happy time for Nan.

As years went by Nan gave birth to her second son Gary. Both Russ and Nan were so very proud of their 2 sons and worked very hard at ensuring they would live a more peaceful and calmer life than they once had.

As time went by, they purchased a new house in a new subdivision. Nan loved her new house and quickly made it the home of her dreams. For Nan it was the joy of her life to spend time with her family and grandchildren.

Nan loved the simple things of life such as her humming birds that she fed as if they were her own children. Every autumn, the hummingbirds would always stop by to say goodbye to Nan before they left for the coming winter months. Russ and Nan loved to sit in their back yard and enjoy the many varieties of birds, squirrels and chipmunks that always seemed a little chubbier than when they first came to visit.

Now anyone who knew Nan also knew that she loved to be out in her many flower gardens. Nan would spend hours weeding and straightening out her beds. Nan loved all family gatherings, be it for a home cooked meal or a cup of tea and cookies. Russ and Nan have great neighbors and Nan would take delight when they would take the time to stop and chat. Nan loved to see the lady who walked her dog and would hold the dog up so Nan could see what outfit the dog was wearing as she walked past the house.

Nan passed away peacefully in her 91st year while being comforted by her family at the Health Sciences North Center in Sudbury on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Nan was a devoted volunteer of 35 years for the local Canadian Cancer Society and Cancer Clinic. Nan touched the hearts of many and will truly be missed by those who knew her.