Many long-time residents of north Milton and Halton Hills, or anyone who travelled down to Milton long Highway 25 North, remember Durante’s Service Station. From 1963 until they closed in 2007, the friendly owner served people with humour and care. Durante’s was the place you went if you had a problem with your car and you were sure of receiving great service. Durante’s Towing is still available.
In 1953 Mario Durante was sponsored by his brother to leave his family in Italy and come to live in Milton, Ontario, Canada. His Dad lent him just $19. Mario’s brother had arrived in town 2 years earlier.
“I think I helped him off the boat!” said Mayor Gord Krantz, who was raised in the predominantly Italian area of Milton Heights where Mario stayed with his uncle when he first arrived. “I couldn’t speak Italian well. Mario couldn’t speak good English. So we got along very well!”
They became firm friends forever. Krantz used to deliver oil to his home in the 20 years that our Mayor was the BP oil man at Krantz Fuels.
At first Mario worked at a limestone quarry near Kelso. And later he had a job with his brother at P.L.Robertson.
Then he worked part time at a gas station, eventually opening his own service station on Highway 25:- Durante’s Auto Service and Towing open 5am to 10 pm with a snack bar serving truckers from Dufferin Aggregates.
In 1956 he met his wife Noemi. Together they had 3 sons and a daughter, Michelle. He built his first home, a yellow brick house which still stands on Highway 25 North. This he sold in 1967 and built his present home on Tremaine.
Over the years, Mario bought and sold land in the area. In 1992 he built the RCMP Headquarters which is conveniently placed near the Tim Hortons on 25, just behind the place where Durante used to work all hours of every day. His sons joined the family business.
Durante eventually repaid his Dad the $19 he had loaned him to come to Canada.
Mayor Krantz observed that Mario has made many sacrifices in his life and invested a lot of hard work in the Milton community. He would not expect anyone working for him to do something he wouldn’t do. The Mayor recalled: “When I was busy with the worst of the winter weather at 9 or 10 one snowy night and my truck needed to get pulled out of a snowbank- guess who came to get me out?”
Mario’s daughter Michelle said “He taught us that you always have to save for a rainy day. He taught his children to work hard and to always honour our word. He showed us by example to always be humble and to help others whenever we could. The most important lesson in my opinion that both my parents instilled in us was that family was everything. We succeed together and we fail together.”
Miltonians have worked for or have used his many local companies over the last 50 years.
“My life was work and family,” he said,adding he used to get together with close friends, like Mayor Gord Krantz for regular card games.
The Mayor recalls how they made a couple of trips to Las Vegas together with their wives. Olive Krantz said, “His wife Noemi was as sweet as Mario was yappy!” They have remained staunch friends, watching each other’s children grow up.
Mario’s sons have now taken over a lot of his business.
In 2012 Mario Durante received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal- this was given to 60000 deserving Canadians to honour their significant contributions and achievements.
As Durante pointed “Business wasn’t always peaches and cream. To make money, I lost money too,” he said. “It’s not all roses, there’s some thorns too.
“Whatever I have, I worked for what I got. I never gave up the dream and that’s what you have to do.”
Milton Chamber of Commerce will hold the Community Awards Gala at Granite Ridge Golf Club on April 12th 2019. At the top of the list to be honoured for Lifetime Achievement is Mario Durante.