Humans: Tony Lofaro has friends in high places  

Tony poses for a photo next to a sign on Preston Street in Little Italy.
Tony Lafaro is a Preston Street resident. Photo by Aaron Reid.

By Charlie Senack  

When Tony Lofaro first put pen to paper as a young kid, he had no clue of the 38-year journalism career that was to come. 

The Preston Street area resident grew up in Italy but moved to Ottawa with his family at the age of two. While he has no memories of his early upbringing abroad, Lofaro has frequently visited to connect with distant relatives. 

Like many European immigrants looking to start a new life, the Lofaro family settled in Little Italy, a charming, quaint community where neighbors knew each other and children played on the streets. Its landscape has changed a lot over the decades. 

“When I was growing up, there were a few Italian stores and restaurants. It’s built up quite a bit since then,” said Lofaro. “Unfortunately a lot of the Italian immigrants who came over [and] settled in this area have moved away. There are few Italians who live in Little Italy. Even the ‘old’ families are pretty much all gone.”

Lofaro was one of them. After graduating from Algonquin College’s journalism program, the Italian native married wife Gina and had two sons, Anthony and Joseph. 

The new family moved to the cookie-cutter suburb of Barrhaven, where Lofaro stayed for the next 28 years. Gina passed away after a short bout of cancer in June 2014 at the age of 56. 

“She was charming and sweet. She had such a beautiful smile. Everyone loved her for the person she was,” said Lofaro. “We had a great life together. She was about to retire from the library after 38 years, then got sick, and we lost her in about six weeks.”

After his wife’s sudden death, Lofaro decided a change was needed. He moved back to Preston Street to look after his mother, who lived on Laurel Avenue for 60 years. 

“I moved back to my roots to start a new life and meet some new people,” said Lofaro. “Life is a series of passages. I’m still going through it but I’ve got a good circle of friends. I’m a religious person. I believe in God and life after this. That’s what the Catholic faith teaches you.”

Paul Anka poses for a photo with Tony and Gina Lafaro. It is signed in the corner.
An autographed photo from April 1998 showing Ottawa-born singer Paul Anka, Gina Lofaro and Tony Lofaro. Provided.

Celebrity encounters 

Lofaro began working as a freelancer at the Ottawa Citizen while still a journalism student and launched a 38-year career there six months after graduating. 

The Preston Street resident began on the general assignment desk and worked his way up to covering city hall, the courts and entertainment. Lofaro wrote about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and the 1999 OC Transpo shootings. 

While each story had its own impact on Lofaro’s life, his connection to Ottawa-born singer Paul Anka had the biggest effect. 

“I wrote about him many times. I saw his shows in Vegas. He’s always been good to me and always gave me access,” said Lofaro. “I was lucky enough years ago when he decided to write his autobiography. He asked me to do research for his book. He was nice enough to give me a mention. We’ve remained friends.”

When Lofaro’s wife died, Anka personally called him up to share his condolences. The two last connected in Florida this March. 

In retirement, Lofaro has published a few articles, but typically spends his days with friends. He tried to write a children’s book which so far hasn’t panned out, and is now turning attention to a Christmas movie script. 

“We’ve got a producer who is interested locally. It’s a different kind of writing than news writing and there is a challenge,” said Lofaro. “I’ve got a lot of ideas but it takes time to put them down on paper.”

Tony leans on a sculpture of a soccer ball.
Tony Lafaro has recently wrote a Christmas movie script. Photo by Aaron Reid.

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