CESARE Bonacini turns 100 on Wednesday this week (17 August) and sees Main Ridge Bowls and Petanque Club as his “spiritual bowls home, his palace”.
“This diminutive, always affable Italian migrant, affectionately known by all in the Mornington Peninsula bowls community as ‘Caesar’, is indeed hailed by all who have been fortunate to know him on the greens or off,” club member Sue Brown said.
On 17 August club members will “salute a unique and beautiful human being”.
“He remains a vital component of the bowls team and in 2009-10 secured the club’s pair’s title, a feat he achieved again in 2020-21 with Lee Mellett at the tender age of 98,” Brown said. “Remarkably, last season as a 99 year-old, he was beaten by a single shot in the pairs final.
“Everyone in peninsula bowls reveres and admires this man who was as unwaveringly dignified as he was brilliant in pennant competition. His opponents have long lauded – and feared – his level of skill as a lawn bowler.”
Brown said Bonacini was born in the northern Italian town of Modena, about 40kilometres north-west of Bologna, the same year as Benito Mussolini came to power.
The youngest of three boys, he lost his mother at an early age and his father moved the family to France to escape the Mussolini dictatorship.
After the war Bonacini arrived in Australia at the Port of Melbourne and “as he was great with his hands and a skillful mechanic” was hired by a garage in Alexandria.
“In the meantime, back in the bustling city of Modena was Caesar’s fiancé Marisa, patiently awaiting the call to come and join him in Australia. When the new Mrs Bonacini’s arrived in rural Victoria it was quite a culture shock.”
The couple retired to Dromana more than 20 years ago which meant Bonacini had to find a new bowls club.
“He chose the glorious surrounds of Main Ridge as the place to continue his bowls passion,” Brown said.
“Sadly, Marisa passed away in 2020, but his two children remain his support and joy.”
“A long time ago I made two great decisions,” Bonacini told club members. “The first was to migrate to Australia … and the second was to join Main Ridge. I am thankful for that.”
Brown said the club wanted to thank him.