THE family of Alfred ‘Alf’ Tesoro have thanked well-wishers who turned out in force to applaud his funeral cortège as it made its way past his former cafe in Musselburgh.

He died suddenly of a presumed heart attack at the age of 94, as he returned to his home in Eskside West after buying his daily newspaper on June 3.

Due to current Covid-19 restrictions, a private service was conducted on Monday, June 15, at Inveresk Cemetery by Father Basil Clark, from Our Lady of Loretto Church on Newbigging, Musselburgh.

The funeral cortège travelled along North High Street, passing his former cafe premises for the last time, to applause from members of the local community who lined the street to pay their respects.

His niece Anita Cullinan said: “Our family were truly touched by all who turned up to witness Alf’s last journey through Musselburgh – people who perhaps personally knew Alf or who had grown up during the years the shop was open.

“We’d like to thank them for turning out and for the deeply respectful applause as the cortège passed by.”

Alf was born in the house above the shop on 177 North High Street on July 3, 1925, the middle child of Edoardo Tesoro and Zelinda Costa Tesoro, whose other two children were Eolanda and Bert.

Edoardo started the cafe known as A.Tesoro in 1919, and his brother Emilio also started a Tesoro cafe across the bridge in Musselburgh around the same time. They married the Costa sisters, Zelinda and Carmen.

Life was hard as Alf’s parents worked in the 1920s through to the late 1930s, with Zelinda looking after the children, maintaining a home and helping in the shop. They would have worked seven days a week, from dawn till dusk.

Like most Italian immigrants of the time, they built the business from nothing to create a small ice cream factory behind the cafe.

The ice cream was made by hand and boiled in small quantities each day in response to the demand. They didn’t have a pasteurising machine until after the Second World War, which then allowed larger quantities to be made and stored.

Ice was delivered to the cafe each day and kept in a cool cabinet and the ice cream was then made using a secret family recipe, passing from father to son.

The ice cream was then delivered by horse and cart to various places around Portobello and Musselburgh and also distributed by bicycles with cool boxes in front to keep it fresh.

They had young lads helping to distribute the ice cream and family members remember Alf saying that they also attended the Musselburgh Racecourse events and dance halls to expand the business.

Alf started a car mechanic’s course on New Street, Musselburgh, before the war but hadn’t completed it before being called up to serve in the British Army as a private in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regiment.

He served in both France and Germany, arriving in Normandy on June 7, 1944, and spending the rest of the war in France, Holland and Germany.

He returned to Musselburgh with the intention to finish his apprenticeship and learn how to drive but, as was so often the case with the eldest son of Italian families at the time, was asked by his father to run the business.

His sister, Eolanda, had finished her secretarial studies after the war and met a young Italian called Ricardo Paganuzzi, who she married and who set up an ice cream business called Dino’s Cafe in Perth.

His younger brother, Bert, went on to study law at the University of Edinburgh after he finished his national service.

He married an Edinburgh girl called Catherine O’Donnell, who studied to be a teacher.

Alf therefore found himself the last of the siblings left in the business and stayed to continue work until his retirement – around 50 years.

After he retired and, in the absence of successors to run the business, he sold up around 1989 and continued to spend his remaining 30 or so years living very happily in his native Musselburgh.

He travelled to the USA and to Canada but mainly spent his annual holidays with his nephew, Dino Paganuzzi, in Switzerland.

He went on numerous trips back with Dino to where their family originated, Beverino, in the region of La Spezia in northern Italy, where relatives still live.

He announced very shortly after returning from a family trip to Rome that his travelling days were now over, at the age of nearly 90.

Alf was a member of the hiking club run by Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church, where he seldom missed a Sunday Mass.

He also spent many a Saturday at Easter Road in Edinburgh with his brother Bert, watching his beloved Hibs play football.

Alf is survived by his nephew Dino Paganuzzi in Switzerland, niece Anita Cullinan, from Edinburgh, cousin Roland Toma, of the Cafe Continental in Gourock, cousin Elena Grippa in Rome, and their children.

Many Musselburgh residents took to social media to pay tribute to Alf. Fiona Rutherford posted: “Loved his cafe.”

Gillian Duffy said: “Always used to be the place to hang out at Alfie’s when a teenager.”

Alan Fraser said: “Brilliant recognition by the people of Musselburgh.”

Elaine Black added: “Happy memories. The best ice cream.”