In Memoriam to our Founder, Gaetano Gagliano 1917-2016
“If you live life according to your values and principles, don’t be afraid. Anything is possible.”
Gaetano Gagliano, Founder and Honorary Chairman of St. Joseph Communications, died peacefully surrounded by his family on April 14, 2016, at the age of 98. Starting the company in the basement of his family home sixty years ago, he continued to come into work well into his mid-90s. At the tender age of 86, he also founded Canada’s first Catholic television network to spread good works with people from all walks of life around the world. A man with unrivaled determination, strength of character and deep faith and passion, we are honoured to share his inspiring life story.
Following are two videos produced by Salt+Light Media: In Memoriam of Gaetano Gagliano and Gaetano Gagliano, Laying New Tracks for the Future, which was created as a tribute to mark St. Joseph Communications’ 50th anniversary in 2006. The National Post also published an article in Gaetano’s memory: Devout founder of St. Joseph Communications dies at 98, leaves long legacy of success.
Italian roots, humble beginnings
Gaetano Gagliano was born in a small farming town in Southern Italy called Cattolica Eraclea; a poor town with no electricity, roads or schools. During his childhood years, Gaetano worked on his parents’ farm, travelling to school in a nearby town. After serving in World War II, Gaetano returned home and married Giuseppina with whom he would have 10 children. Farm life in Italy was difficult though, so when Giuseppina was pregnant with their fifth child, Gaetano decided it was time to sell all their worldly possessions and pursue a better life for his family in Canada. Over the course of two years working long, hard days laying track for CP Rail, Gaetano and his family moved from a rented apartment in Toronto to a small owned home with a big mortgage – and most significantly, a small basement.
A dream becomes a reality
When Gaetano was 11 years old, he had a life-changing opportunity to study mass media and communications with the Society of Saint Paul at a Catholic seminary in northern Italy, far from his hometown. That motivated him to choose a career in mass media and to decide to make a difference in this world. For an 11-year-old with incredible determination, these words stood for more than a dream, but rather a destiny. Two years after emigrating from Italy, Gaetano started a printing business in that basement of the first small Gagliano home. He had no resources to speak of, and at the beginning also continued to work 12 hours a day for CP Rail. But he had two bold goals: to lay the foundation for a print media company based on integrity, and to create a company that embraced its responsibility to help build stronger, better communities. He bought a small letterpress and began printing wedding invitations, business cards and letterhead. He named his business “St. Joseph Printing” after Canada’s patron saint and the patron saint of workers to honour the company’s associates.
Growing a small print business into a national media organization
Through sheer hard work and dedication, over the first two decades, Gaetano grew the company from a one-person, part-time print operation into a mid-sized offset print organization. During the late 70s and early 80s, inspired by their father’s lifelong passion and dedication, Gaetano’s children began joining the business. St. Joseph expanded into a successful commercial printer with large advertising contracts. Over the next decade, Gaetano and his children expanded the company by acquiring a photo studio, the Queen’s Printer (including printing facilities in every province) and two magazine publishers. Through strategic acquisitions and organic growth the family continued to evolve the business into what is today a national omnichannel communications leader with 1,400 associates.
Founding Canada’s first Catholic television network
In his 86th year, Gaetano realized his life’s work was not done. He experienced a compelling call to harness the power of modern media to spread good works with people from all walks of life and cultural communities. In this spirit, shortly after World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, Gaetano founded Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation and Salt + Light Television, Canada’s first Catholic television network. Salt + Light is now available to more than 2.5 million viewers across Canada and many more millions of viewers around the world. It has produced over 40 documentaries and TV series and has launched a satellite radio program, a magazine and numerous web-based initiatives including a blog and live stream that are viewed daily by people worldwide.
A lifetime of achievement
Recognizing his lifelong achievements and dedication to helping others, Gaetano was named a Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester in 1992 and a Member of the Order of Canada in 1998. He has received two honorary doctorates from Canadian Universities and was given the title of Commendatore, one of Italy’s highest honorary rankings.
Gaetano’s story is one that emphasizes it is possible at any age, and under any life circumstances, to embark on a new journey and realize a dream. Gaetano started a printing company as a new immigrant to Canada with no money or resources, and decades later at an age when most people are enjoying retirement, started a wide-reaching global television network. Launching the organization at the age of 86 with no prior experience in television, in his 99th year he got to experience Salt+Light’s impact first-hand. He heard regularly from people all over the world sharing how meaningful the content is to them and how much it had changed their lives.
While Gaetano will be incredibly missed, his values and determined spirit will forever be at the heart of St. Joseph Communications and we are proud to carry on his legacy.