NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Joseph A. Petrozzi, a longtime dry cleaner in Niagara Falls, New York and the founder of the nationwide charity Coats for Kids, passed away on June 6, 2023, at the age of 95.
Petrozzi graduated from Niagara Falls High School before serving in the U.S. Army from 1946 until his honorable discharge in 1947. He began operating his businesses, Capitol Cleaners and Feldman Furs, in 1948, which he eventually operated together with his wife and son.
Petrozzi founded Coats for Kids 54 years ago, which is now a nationwide charity accepting, cleaning and donating coats for children in need. Joe was involved with the Better Business Bureau, serving as a Board Member and also had the distinction of being their longest tenured member. He was a member of the National Cleaners Association, and the longest standing board member of Health Association of Niagara County (HANCI).
"Despite all he gave to his family, his business and his association, his heart and spirit knew boundless empathy and generosity for the world around him," says Dawn Hargrove-Avery, digital marketing manager for the National Cleaners Association (NCA). "Everyone he touched, regardless of age, gender, status, race or religion was treated with respect and honored as a valued human being. He was the founding father of the Coats for Kids initiative and was fully committed to it for decades during good times and bad."
Hargrove-Avery believes that Petrozzi's example of helping those in need is one that should be taken to heart by everyone in the industry, both for those who they help and for the rewards it brings.
"I once asked Joe about that dedication and his eyes misted up as he told story after story of helping children of all shapes and sizes find 'their' coat," she says. "The one that was going to make them feel, not only warm on a cold, western New York day, but special, valued, and proud of themselves. Over the years, Joe spearheaded the collection, cleaning, and distribution of untold thousands of coats, and with each one made a difference in the life of a child."
He is preceded in death by his wife, Grace (Chiarenza) Petrozzi, who passed away in 2015. He is survived by his children, Russell (Susan) Petrozzi and Marcia (Robert) Britton; his grandchildren, Anne (Kevin) Burgess, Katherine (Wesley) Walker, Robert Britton, Jr., Alexa Britton (Matt McCormick), Rachael (Craig) Goldenberg, and John (Lynda) Marino; great-grandchildren, Joseph, Tucker, Chase, Claire, and Logan; his brother, Chuck Petrozzi, and his sisters-in-law, Mae (Late Anthony) Minicucci, Marie (late Vincent) Chiarenza and brother-in-law David (late Carol) Donato as well as nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends.
In addition to his wife of 64 years, he was predeceased by his siblings, John (late Joyce) Petrozzi, Marie Hackett, and Angie (late Grant) Herod; and siblings-in-law, Charles (late Mae) Chiarenza, Florence (late Anthony) Cheff, and Lawrence (late Jenny) Chiarenza.
"The world is less with his passing," Hargrove-Avery says, "but also so much greater for the life he led."
If desired, memorial offerings may be made to Niagara Hospice.
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