Tributes have been paid to the former Italian Vice-Consul of Birmingham Franco Vegnuti, who has died aged 85.
Cav-Commendatore Franco Vegnuti, who passed away on May 3, held the honorary title for nearly 30 years, offering advice and support to the growing Italian population of Birmingham.
Italian-born Franco came to England merely to say goodbye to his parents before setting off for Australia with a group of friends. But he ended up staying in the UK after meeting his future wife Barbara in Knowle, Solihull.
The Warwickshire resident, who went on to have two children and four grandchildren, began working as an interpreter for the Coal Board before moving on to the railways, where he was quickly made inspector.
Franco’s name was put forward to the Embassy in London as a replacement for the then Vice Consul, who had passed away. He became Italian Vice-Consul of Birmingham in 1967 and was awarded the Cavaliere Commendatore soon after.
“He was doing a lot of that sort of work anyway and he would often help the Italians who were working with him,” wife Barbara said.
“He was absolutely delighted to have been given this position. When it came to his retirement, he didn’t want to give it up. He stayed on for a while to help his replacement get used to the role.
“He was the type of man who would do anything for anyone and could not understand it if others didn’t do the same.
“He was larger than life and very much his own man. He was very popular,” 84-year-old Barbara added.
Franco was also founding member of the Anglo Italian Society, which has been running for 30 years and works to foster relations between the British and Italians in the West Midlands.
Beryl Williams, secretary of the Anglo Italian Society, paid tribute to a ‘wonderful man.’
“Franco will be deeply missed,” she said. “He was very well known and very well thought of in the Birmingham area. I first met Franco in 1985 when I became one of the founding members of the Anglo Italian Society. He was a very outgoing man, very charming and good at making people happy. I remember him as a very smart man with a rugged Italian appearance.” Franco’s funeral will be held on Wednesday at Rowington Parish Church.