The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

Marie Benoit's Diary: A fitting farewell to a life well lived

Marie Benoît Sunday, 26 June 2022, 08:08 Last update: about 3 months ago
Jacob Portelli and Christine Dalli provided beautiful music that evening
Jacob Portelli and Christine Dalli provided beautiful music that evening

When Victor Galea passed away in April there was no funeral. His wife Yvonne held a non-religious memorial service for family and friends at the La Vallette Hall, Mediterranean Conference Centre, on  the 4Th May. Victor's body was to be taken to Rome and cremated. The Memorial was a sad occasion but not as lugubrious as a funeral. A few wore black, more by coincidence than design.

Alfred Camilleri, Parliamentary Secretary, Finance, legendary for his competence and a music lover and friend of the family, introduced the evening and had a great deal to do with its organisation. Some read poems written by Yvonne herself, which she had kept secret. Some presentations displayed humour, bringing Victor alive.Some friends and members of the family either paid tribute to Victor while looking back on a childhood spent together as is the case of his eldest brother Guzi; or years spent studying or working together. Apart from those already mentioned the following also participated:  Joe Bugeja, Anna Spiteri, Lino Attard, David Harrison and Yvonne's nieces, Simone Cini and her sister Yvette Farrugia and myself.


Alexei Galea brought the evening to its conclusion.

Anna Spiteri gave an affectionate delivery about the couple

Interspersed with the poetry and other presentations was music. There was some beautiful singing from soprano Christine Dalli who sang Tosti's Tristezza, Schubert's Ständchen and Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix from Samson and Dalila by Saint-Saëns. She was accompanied on the harp by Jacob Portelli.  That sensitive harpist also gave us two solo pieces: Impromptu-Caprice by Gabriel Pierné and Handel's Harp Concerto.

I met Victor and Yvonne Galea over 30 years ago at a crossroads in our lives: "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita"  to quote Dante. I had recently lost my husband in Mauritius, they had lost their 15-year-old eldest son, Ramon. We had been through a trauma, deaths which were very difficult to come to terms with. We met at a private concert in a palazzo in Senglea. I remember candles on the staircase and being impressed by the violin-playing of their young son Alexei, then a slim, good-looking teenager.

Simone Cini read a couple of poems written by her aunt Yvonne

Victor had music in his blood. His mother was half Italian. Her father, Agostino Cavallazzi, had come to Malta as a violinist at the Royal Opera House. In World War I he had joined the British Navy and was killed at the Battle of Jutland. Victor's father and Victor himself played the violin, too. Three generations of musicians and it is now Alexei's who has kept up the tradition but is also a pianist, organist and conductor

What follows is not a biography but just a few facts I know about Victor. Much is missing. Victor passed his A levels at 16 and right away went to work at the Laboratory of the Drydocks. His boss, seeing how promising he was, asked him if he wanted to go and study Metallurgy abroad. Victor immediately said yes and asked: "But what is Metallurgy?"

He finished his course for a first degree at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. In 1971 he was awarded another scholarship from the Drydocks to study Materials at Imperial College where he obtained a Master's degree. It is here that he met Joe Bugeja and Tony Cassar, lifelong friends who participated in that evening's Memorial service.

Victor was soon lecturing at the University of Malta. In time with the help of Yvonne he set up a refining laboratory. LAGA was setup in 1976  with a colleague. This is where they recovered precious metals and in time employed several craftsmen making silver for the church and also beautiful domestic silver and gold jewellery.  Then there was Motherwell Bridge. LAGA was eventually sold and they enjoyed a long retirement until Victor became ill.

This is a couple which has been devoted to one another and stuck it out through thick and thin. Yvonne was Victor's loving companion right to the last breath.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge captured the reality of death thus:

"To meet, to know, to love - and then to part,

Is the sad tale of many a human heart."

Some of us know this only too well.

Longfellow got it right.

"Feel not the pain of parting.

It is those left behind that suffer."

The music, the poetry the favourite memories made for a fitting evening and Victor would have liked it. Who knows maybe he was watching it all. Maybe he will sing for us again, one of his Neapolitan canzoni. I hope to be surprised.

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