John Lancia Retires From Hanmer Valley
Shopping Centre After 27 Years In Charge of Maintenance Department
To the casual observer, there wasn't much out of the
ordinary at the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre on Friday, March 31, 2006.
Visitors to the mall early in the day saw the familiar site of John Lancia
with his broom, shovel and wheelbarrow, cleaning up the parking lot. But
this certainly wasn't any normal day. It was John's last day on the job.
After almost 27 years in the role of chief custodian of the Hanmer Valley
Shopping Centre, John was calling it a day and joining the ranks of the
Now, retiring after 27 years wouldn't usually be anything
remarkable, but in the case of John Lancia, remarkable just doesn't seem
to justify the achievement.
For John, this was the
end of his 3rd career. He began working at the age of 15 for the railway.
After spending 15 years on the rails, he went to work in the mines for the
next 20. Then, at the age of 50, when most men are thinking of retirement,
he accepted an offer from Val Mazzuca to take care of the shopping centre.
Now, 27 years later, at the age of 77, and with an impeccable record for
attendance and reliability, John decided it was time to go. It was time to
enjoy gardening, walking and waiting for his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs
to win another cup.
On Sunday, April 2, 2006, over 100 of his family, friends
and colleagues gathered for a surprise retirement party for John. In the
above photo his wife, Chummy, is breaking up with laughter now that the
stress of keeping the news of this party from leaking out to her husband.
Johnny's look of surprise said it all.
One of the most emotional parts of the evening was when Val
Mazzuca, John's employer of 27 years, got up and said a few things about
his loyal employee.
"There is no one in this room who will miss Johnny
more than I will," Val said to begin his speech. "I can remember the day when John & Chummy came in
to my I.G.A. store in Capreol , 27 years ago in July, and I asked John if
he would like to work for Mario, Bob and myself at the Hanmer Valley
Shopping Centre as security and janitorial, etc., etc. Once I saw how fast
he could run, I took away the security part of the job."
Val stated that he would have to buy a new alarm
clock because, "for the past 27 years this man
“Johnny” called me on the phone at 3, 4 and
during every snow storm and always said the same thing - We have to go now.”
He told a few stories of how Johnny Lancia took everything that
happened in the mall in stride, and how he never got excited about
anything. Once there was a fire in the washroom, and all Johnny said was,
"I'll get the fire extinguisher." and put the fire out before
the trucks arrived. Another time there was a big flood in the mall and all
Johnny said was, "I'll get my rubber boots." If the roof was
leaking, he would simply say, "I'll get a pail and ladder."
"One thing I can say about Johnny was that he was always faithful,
honest and dependable," continued Mazzuca. "Starting time was 7
a.m. and he was always here a half hour before starting time."
Val Mazzuca explained that there were three words that he would miss
saying now that John was retiring: "HERE COMES JOHNNY"
John Lancia made a big difference to the character and
personality of the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre. He was loved by the
shoppers and was always willing to take the time to help out a child, or
make sure that anything that was spilled was quickly wiped up.
He lived by the motto, "Whatever you get out of life today, you
have to earn."
His three sons, Anthony, Brian and Robert were also at the retirement
party. Anthony said that this retirement was as much about his
"Mom" as it was his Dad. Chummy has stood beside John for over
56 years and is looking forward to a much deserved rest.
One of the highlights of the night was when John was presented with a
Montreal Canadians hockey jersey. As was explained by Anthony, "Many
of us feel that Dad decided to retire now because Toronto wasn't going to
make the playoffs and he didn't think he could come to work and take the
kidding from the Montreal fans in the town.
Val Mazzuca and his staff will certainly miss the
dependable Johnny Lancia. The place just won't be the same without him,
but it is time for John to enjoy some of his own activities with Chummy,
his sons and grandchildren. It's been 62 long years of labour. And it is
going to be a great retirement.