Staff at a Huddersfield firm have bid a poignant farewell to the man who founded the business and became one of the town’s foremost entrepreneurs.
Marino Bevilacqua, chairman and owner of Continental Wine and Food (CWF), died at his home in August, aged 85.
Employees at the family firm lined the pavement outside its premises at Trafalgar Mills, Leeds Road, yesterday (WED) as his funeral cortege paused on its way to a requiem mass at St Patrick’s Church, New North Road. The service was followed by a private committal at Rose Hill Natural Burial Ground, Birkby.
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman was among those paying tribute (WED) to a man who arrived in Britain from Italy as a teenager to work in the coal mining industry and went on to build a business empire encompassing food and drink, property development and much more.
Mr Sheerman said: “Marino was without doubt the most influential Italian entrepreneur ever to come to this country. He created a lot of jobs and the people of Huddersfield will remember him for a long time. As small as he was in stature, he had an enormous personality. He will be much missed.”
Born in 1932 in Civitanova, Marino lived with his parents Sante and Loretta Bevilacqua, his sisters Gianni, Angela and brother Ezio. In 1950, he came to Britain along with many other Italians to work down the mines in Wales. He worked his way up into management and transferred to Worksop before embarking on a career as an entrepreneur.
Beginning with a single ice-cream van – later buying his own fleet – Marino served customers with Italian ice-cream by day and Italian food products by night, offering a door-to-door service many years before the likes of Ocado and Amazon.
He later set up CWF, supplying delicatessens and restaurants with imported Italian fare.
After selling the business to a conglomerate for several million pounds, he used the proceeds to establish MB Construction – going on to create the Da Sandro Ristorante and Pizzeria and the Briar Court Hotel at Birchencliffe. His businesses also included the Waterfront hotel and Prego restaurant in Brighouse.
In typical entrepreneurial style he bought back CWF for £1, taking on all the liabilities 18 months later.
As a property developer, he built more than 500 houses in the Huddersfield area and 100 commercial premises which he rented out. His other business interests included classic cars and car dealerships.
Marino’s children supported him in his many ventures and CWF Ltd remains a family business to this day.
Marino married his first wife Ada in Huddersfield and the couple had four children, Sandro, Maria, Loretta and Lidia, After Ada sadly passed away, Marino married Val, who has been totally devoted to him throughout his life.
Marino, who lived at Brighouse, received the Italian title of Cavalieri in 1977 in recognition of his contribution to exports from Italy.
A family statement said: “Over the years, he has employed hundreds of people and is remembered fondly for his passionate and astute business acumen, indiscriminate kindness and his truly wicked sense of humour!”
It said Marino showed “incredible resilience” to overcome accidents and illness in his life, including having only one kidney, getting knocked over by a cow, getting knocked over by a car and suffering from myeloma cancer.
It said: “He has kept his family in a state of permanent concern for his health throughout his life. However, his iron will and strength of character has seen him recover time after time.
“On his 85th birthday, despite being very poorly, he was very amusing, joyful, communicative and smiley. He even had a cheeky sip of beer! He slipped away peacefully two days later, at home, surrounded by his loving family.”