Article submitted by Adriana Davies, Curator, The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello exhibit.
On December 19, 2017, Justice Kevin Feehan was sitting in Queen’s Bench in Lethbridge, Alberta and a colleague drove him to the Galt Museum to see a travelling exhibition titled “The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello.” The exhibit was developed by Ron Ulrich, Executive Director, Fernie Museum and curated by historian Adriana Davies. Feehan was impressed by the exhibit and surprised when he read that Picariello and Lassandro were buried in unmarked graves in St. Joachim’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Edmonton after being executed for the murder of Alberta Provincial Policeman Constable Stephen Lawson. The exhibit deals with the sting operation orchestrated by the APP involving local rival bootleggers that resulted in Lawson’s shooting Steve, Picariello’s 16-year-old son in the hand as he drove the load of liquor through Coleman on his way to the BC border on the evening of September 21, 1922. Picariello, accompanied by Lassandro went to the APP headquarters to speak to Constable Lawson and a struggle ensued and Lawson was shot in the back. Picariello and Lassandro were tried and found guilty and executed by hanging in the Fort Saskatchewan Gaol on May 2, 1923. Until the end, they protested their innocence and spoke about “a shooter in the alley.”
Justice Feehan noted that he had acted on behalf of Gerry and William Connelly, Jr, descendants of Joseph William Connelly, who had been present at the execution and was charged by prison authorities with their burial. He gave his son, William, a hand-drawn map of the burial site and passed on the hope that monies be left for the erection of gravestones. Legal wrangles around William Connelly Senior’s will were finally resolved and in December 2011, gravestones were erected.
On Sunday, October 6th, 2019 at 2 pm a commemorative talk was given at graveside by Adriana Davies with special guest Justice Feehan talking about the will provisions. The Picariello family was represented by Kathleen Bjorndalen and Mary Ellen Lanaras, daughters of Picariello’s third child, Carmine, who were accompanied by various family members. Jeannette Connelly represented the Connelly family. While the weather had been disturbed and cold, Sunday was a bright autumn day. After the talks, the Picariello granddaughters laid flowers on the two graves.
The event was organized by the Fort Saskatchewan Heritage Precinct. The exhibit opened in June at the Old Court House and will be there until May, 2020.
DR. ADRIANA DAVIES | The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello exhibit was curated by s a well-known researcher, writer, editor and poet. She was the Executive Director of the Alberta Museums Association for thirteen years and Executive Director of the Heritage Community Foundation for ten years. Under her leadership, the Foundation created the Alberta Online Encyclopedia comprising 84 multi-media websites, which were gifted to the University of Alberta in 2009. She is the author of From Realism to Abstraction: The Art of J. B. Taylor (2014, University of Calgary Press) and co-editor of The Frontier of Patriotism: Alberta and the First World War (to be published by the University of Calgary Press in 2016). Dr. Davies was invested in the Order of Canada, in 2010 for her contributions to heritage. In 2015, she was awarded a knighthood (Cavaliere d’Italia) by the Government of Italy for her contributions to the preservation of the Italian language and culture, and her research and publications on Italian immigration to Canada.