Crescenzo Forte

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Crescenzo FORTE, who died at the age of 86 in Clarendon Hills, Illinois, in the United States in November, was the youngest son of the three boys born to Donato – affectionately known as Davie – and Maria Forte, of Galashiels.

The three boys were joined by three sisters and the Forte family and their restaurant business in the centre of Galashiels soon became the hub of the town’s social life.

The Fortes had opened the restaurant in 1913 after Davie arrived from Italy. He had married Maria Poletti from Biggar, and the couple went on to have six children.

Crescenzo – or “Cush” as he was affectionately known – arrived in November, 1924, after Salvatore and Jimmy, both also now sadly passed away.

The three girls are Eppa, Lena and Domenica.

After leaving school, Crescenzo trained as a pattern-maker with the firm of Burns in Galashiels. Naturally gifted as an artist and sculptor, he was also a keen archer, gun shooter, judoka and fencer at various times.

His archery skills would soon see him eventually shooting against people of the calibre as the royal archers and he would enter many competitions after emigrating to the United States in the 1950s.

Together with well-known fellow local archer, Dick Galloway, he set up a business making bows in Melrose. The two men developed a new method for putting the fibreglass used in the bows together and they were soon supplying them to a wide range of people.

Crescenzo gained a brown belt in judo while training with Galashiels judo legend and local barber, Bill Hislop. Crescenzo and his brother Jimmy would don their white judogi gear and practise their moves in the billiards room upstairs from their parents’ restaurant.

Fencing was another passion, and Crescenzo’s youngest sister, Domenica, can still remember Cush and Jimmy leaping on the white cloth-covered billiard tables and fencing as if appearing in one of Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling adventure movies.

It was during this period in Melrose that his archery skills won him the role as archery double for big-screen legend Tyrone Power in the 1950 film The Black Rose, made by 20th Century Fox.

Crescenzo travelled to Morocco where he did all the archery scenes required of Power’s character. The Black Rose of the title is the lovely Maryam, played in the film by beautiful French actress Cécile Aubry.

It was always a source of pride for Crescenzo – although less so for his wife Betty (nee Dodds, from Melrose) – that the actress had signed a large photograph of herself with the words “to my lovely Cush”.

During the 1950s Crescenzo took up the offer of a job with a bow maker in Clarendon Hills, just outside Chicago.

But while he was in Galashiels, Crescenzo had attended Edinburgh Art College on a night school basis while working full-time.

His skills as a talented pattern maker had honed his artistic capabilities and he became a superb painter and sculptor, producing many stunning wood carvings.

Crescenzo made all his own furniture for his and Betty’s home in Illinois. His beautiful hand-carved chairs and tables were good enough to fool all but the most eagle-eyed of experts.

Once asked if his furniture was early American, he humorously replied: “No, early necessity.” He eventually returned to working as a pattern maker in his adopted country, but still continued to paint and carve his own wonderful artistic creations.

With an infectious sense of humour and dark Italian good looks, he was well liked by a great many and his funeral service in the United States drew a large attendance.

Crescenzo returned to the Borders several times when his children were still small and his son, Christopher, a dentist in the Us, still owns a home in Melrose and makes regular visits to Scotland.

Crescenzo is survived by Betty, Christopher and his brother David – the last also lives in the US – his four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and his three sisters Eppa, Lena and Domenica.

Crescenzo’s daughter, Elena, predeceased her father when she died at the age of 50.

Funny, good looking with a real sense of adventure and a willingness to try new experiences, Crescenzo Forte was determined to have a life less ordinary.

Without a doubt he achieved that and he will be long remembered by all those priviliged to have known him.

– M.C.E.