Della Franca Jack

The Family of

Last updated October 2011

The Della Franca Family were not unfamiliar with Australian shores.

1860 Jack’s grandfather, Giovanni Della Franca, worked in the timber industry in the Dandenong Ranges for 6 months then returned back to Tirano, Italy.

1896 Jack’s father, Giuseppe Della Franca, at the age of 20 traveled to Western Australia and worked, helping to build the Mundaring Weir and also worked cutting wood in Kalgoorlie. He returned to Italy seven years later in 1903, only to return to Western Australia later in life.


1905 Giovanni Della Franca (better known in Australia as Jack), was a tall red/blonde haired man with light blue eyes and a very fair complexion.

1922 Jack (Giovanni Della Franca) pictured below, arrived in Australia at the age of 17 where he worked on the timber line in Kurrawong for seven years to earn money, then returned to his home in Tirano. In 1930 he commenced his 18 months compulsory national service.

1933 Jack married Natalina Peloni in Tirano, Italy.

1935 Mussolini was beginning to gather troops to invade Abyssinia. Jack did not want to be part of this, as he had grown up with his own father being away during the Boer War. These were depression times prior to the war and things were hard.

NATALINA PELONI DOB 22.6.1915 - DEC 20.6.1986

Jack and Natalina had a son, Giancario (Charles) in Tirano, Italy.

Jack returned to Australia in 1935 only ten days after the birth of his son, with the intention of earning enough money to bring his family out immediately.

Unfortunately, it would take four years before they could be re-united as a family again

1938 Jack Della Franca purchased some land in Pickering Brook, which was originally owned by the Grimshaws. Here he commenced to clear his land to start an orchard. While working his land Jack sponsored his two brothers to Western Australia. Giancarlo (Charles) Della Franca (Senior) and Victorio Della Franca. They both purchased land in Pickering Brook

1940 Natalina Della Franca arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia with their son Giancarlo (Charles). (The boat in which Natalina had traveled to Fremantle was bombed and sank on it’s return to Italy). It was the first time that Charlie had seen his father because when Jack left for Australia he was only 10 days old.

On Natalina”s arrival they lived in a small shack which consisted of hessian bags for walls, a corrugated tin roof and dirt for their floor. Their shack was located near the No.1 loading/siding, which was located in the vicinity of Holroyd Road and Bracken Road. They would travel to their orchard every day to work on it. Later they built their home on the orchard, which still stands today, with the help of Bill Gordon, who lived at the end of Merrivale Road.

1941 – 1945 WAR YEARS
During these years Jack and Natalina, as did other immigrant families of Italian decent who where land holders, were required to grow crops for the military. The contract with the Army required that they grow basic vegetable crops which consisted of cabbages, pumpkins, cauliflowers, potatoes, swedes and possibly a few others. Petro (Peter) Sala Tenna grew Potatoes and Cabbages.

As these new immigrants struggled with their new orchards they also had contracts with the Army, which they were happy to contribute to. One of the many difficulties was fertilizer for the crops which was near impossible to purchase in the area. So it required the grower to travel quite long distances to find and purchase their fertilizer. Joan recalls her father having to travel to Narrogin to purchase fertilizer.

A story is told by Joan Della Franca (nee Sala Tenna) as a child in Barton’s Mill. As a child Joan remembers the large black army vehicles with small flags at the front coming up the driveway of the property to check on the progress of the vegetable crops. Joan remembers on one particular time the army officer arrived with his female driver, which quite impressed her as a child.

Potatoes were dug up with horse and plough, picked up by hand and placed in hessian bags, washed down with water, dried and transported.

The grower was required to transport his crop to the depot. Joan remembers her father’s old gas engined truck which had no doors. Crops were sold by the ton.

Jack and Natalina had three children; CHARLES, INES and IRENE.

Charles Della Franca

1935 Giancarlo (Charles) Della Franca was born in Tirano, Italy and later migrated to Western Australia with his mother.
He was the eldest child of Jack and Natalina.

1940 Charlie was a very active and inquisitive child. He commenced his education at the local primary school in Pickering Brook. Charlie was seen as an exceptional athlete which was noted by the headmaster of the time. This is also recorded in the Battye Library. Charlie was also gifted at mathematics and was very entrepreneurial. He had won many races during his primary school years. Charlie loved his school years and talked of the fun that they had. During the war there were drill carried out at the school. Running to the trenches with gas masks were part of those early school days. Winning the school contract to clean the latrines showed his early entrepreneurial skills, sometimes with more “haste made more waste”. At the age of 13 years of age, Charlie was spotted by a talent scout from the Eastern States to be trained as a tennis player, as he had exceptional skills in this area. Unfortunately things were hard and he was not able to be spared from his work on the orchard. During his school years, Charlie would work before school and again after school to help. Charlie left school at 13 years of age.

Ines Della Franca

1942 Ines Della Franca was born at St. Anne’s Hospital and was Jack and Natalina’s second child.
Ines commenced school at the Pickering Brook Primary School in 1947 and from there went on to Governor Stirling High School.

Irene Della Franca

1943 Irene Della Franca was born in their family home at Merrivale Road, Pickering Brook. Irene is the youngest child of Jack and Natalina Della Franca.

Irene commenced school at the Pickering Brook Primary School in 1948 and from there also went to Governor Stirling High School.

Jack and Natalina were generous people who helped where they could. During the early days, times were hard and there was always someone who needed to be fed or needed a place to stay until they got onto their feet.

Jack loved his bocce and played with the locals at his brother’s property in Pickering Brook, with many of the other local Italian men. Jack also had a bocce pitch at the top of their own property in Merrivale Road.

Jack was a gentle man with tremendous patience and a wonderful sense of humour. Natalina was very hard working and kind and their home was always a joy to go to.

1948 Charlie left school at the age of 13 to work on the family orchard.

1951 Jack and Charlie purchased another orchard from Mr. Flamati, located along Pickering Brook Road and across to Bracken Road, as the main orchard was not large enough to sustain another family in the future. At the age of 16 Charlie planted an acre of swedes and from the sale of the crop he had enough money to purchase a new Holden, unfortunately he had to wait until he was 17 before he could drive it.

1957 Charlie Della Franca and Joan Sala Tenna started courting and attended many dances and social functions, with Joan being chaperoned at the local dances at the Carilla Hall, which was located between the Primary School and the Heritage Building in Pickering Brook.

Joan Sala Tenna is the daughter of Pietro (Peter) and Savina Sala Tenna, one of the first Italian immigrant families in the Barton’s Mill area.

Charlie and Joan both attended the primary school at Pickering Brook, a year apart and have known each other since Grade 1.

1958 Charlie and Joan married at the local church “Mater Gratiae”, now known as “The Lady of all Grace”, Merrivale Road, Pickering Brook, November, 1958. They are still married to this day (2009) and have three children.

The view opposite is taken of the Bridal Party inside the Church in 1958.

The Bride and Groom, Charlie and Joan with Charlie’s two sisters, Ines and Irene as bridesmaids, and Joan’s two brothers, Ralph and Vincent Sala Tenna as groomsmen.

The photo opposite of Charlie and Joan is taken outside the local church after their wedding. It was 38 degrees on their wedding day in November 1958.

The area in the background is quite bare and in the middle of the photo you can see the Davy house.

1958 They built their family home on the orchard which now supported two families, Jack and Charlie’s

Charlie and Joan were involved in the local church and the local Primary School over the years. The local Carilla Hall was a wonderful meeting place for many functions, dances, church social events, school Christmas parties and other social events. They were also strong supporters of the local district and members of the local Pickering Brook Sports Club, where they socialised and played tennis. Joan and a few of the local ladies played tennis at the school tennis courts in their early years of their marriage.

Charlie and Joan were very active in the local community.

Charlie diversified his interests from the orchard into property development over the years.

Charlie and Joan had three children: SUSAN, CAROL and JOHN

Pictured opposite; Carol aged 6, Susan aged 8 and John 2 years of age inside a picking bin in the orchard near the family home.

Susan Della Franca

1959 Charlie and Joan’s first child, Susan Della Franca was born. Susan commenced her schooling at the Matre Gratiae Convent in 1964 and continued until 1969 when the convent closed. In 1970 Susan moved to the Pickering Brook Primary School for two years. Then in 1972 Susan attended the Kalamunda Senior High School.

Susan’s children Keira and Reece attended the local primary school at Pickering Brook, now the third generation to attend in this family.

1983 Susan married and had two children, Keira and Reece.

Keira was born in 1985 and Reece was born in 1986.

Keira married Malcolm Nicholson in 2006 and they have two children, Braydon born in 2006 and Jordon born in 2008.
Reece married Nicole Spiccia in 2010 and have no children at present.

1989 Susan divorced

2004 Susan married Neil Tuffin. Neil has four sons.

Carol Della Franca

1961 Charlie and Joan’s second child Carol Della Franca was born. Carol also commenced her schooling at the Matre Gratiae Convent and moved to the Pickering Brook Primary School in 1970. In 1974 Carol attended the Kalamunda Senior High School.

1987 Carol married Kim and they had three children. Louise born in 1989, Benjamin born in 1992 and Catherine born in 1996.

John Della Franca

1965 Charlie and Joan’s third child, John Della Franca was born. John commenced his schooling at the Pickering Brook Primary School in 1971 and earning a Citizenship Award in his last year of primary school. In 1979 John attended Kalamunda Senior High School and left in 1982 to commence work with Charlie in the orchard. The Two worked closely together forming a strong bond between them.

1994 John Della Franca married Emily Lyons a trained Classical pianist. They have two children, Gabrielle and Maya. Gabrielle was born in 2004 and Maya in 2005.

John and Charlie continued to work closely together.

1999 John chose to change the direction of the orchard from pesticides to a Bio-dynamic process, free from pesticides, which was a very big step for a conventional orchard.

2002 Charlie has a massive stroke and his recovery was a slow uphill process. He was still able to move around. This placed tremendous emotional stress on the family, in particular, it was a difficult time for his wife Joan, who became his main carer during this period.

In 2005 Charlie had a further stroke which rendered him unable to walk. John’s work load was tremendous.

In 2007 Charlie was placed in the Valencia Nursing Home as more intense care was required.

2007 John and Emily took part in the Open Garden Scheme, which attracted over 700 people to the orchard.

John and Emily on their wedding day
John and Emily on their Orchard Open Day

2008 During the Harvest Festival Highvale Orchard participated in this event with great success.

Family Photo taken in 2004

Charlie and Joan Della Franca seated with their three chidren and their partners. Left to Right; John Della Franca & Emily Lyons, Neil & Susan Tuffin, Carol and Kim Holbrook
Sadly Charlie Della Franca passed away in 2010