Arthur Elia, 83, of Wilson, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, at the Niagara Hospice House in Lockport.
He was born on July 3, 1928, in Niagara Falls, New York, the son of Albert Sr. and Josephine (Eugeni) Elia, both Italian immigrants. Arthur grew up in the Falls where he attended Niagara Falls Senior High, and graduated in 1946. It was there he met his childhood sweetheart, and eventual wife, Shirley Knize. The two would marry on June 19, 1948, and they had four children: sons Laurence, Michael, and Richard; and daughter Christine.
At the age of 16, Arthur started working for his father's business, the Albert Elia Building Company. As would become tradition for all Elia descendants, Arthur and his brothers began as laborers working to earn their respective positions. In 1947, Arthur, along with his brothers Albert, Alfred, and Alan, formally incorporated the Albert Elia Building Company Inc., which specialized in residential building construction, as well as industrial, institutional, and civil construction work. This would lay the early framework for what would eventually become Sevenson Environmental Services Inc.
Arthur's expertise was managing the work program of the Highway and Heavy Division of the company. One of the most noteworthy contracts awarded to the Albert Elia Building Company came in the summer of 1969 with the dewatering of the American Falls. This project made national headline news, and the Elia's became famous as the "contractors who turned off the falls." The Albert Elia Building Company slowly grew into one of New York state's largest general contractors. Over time, the third generation of the Elia family joined the company's workforce as it began evolving into Sevenson in its present form.
In 1977, nationwide attention was drawn to the toxic waste concerns at Niagara Falls' Love Canal. The proximity of Love Canal to his home, and the overall threat of toxic waste to the community, fueled the desire and determination in Arthur to pursue work in this field. His efforts gave birth to the future success in the hazardous waste remediation industry. In the late 1970s, the "seven sons" (Arthur's three sons and his nephews) collaborated, and the Sevenson Corporations began to take root. With Arthur at the helm, Sevenson Containment Corporation was selected as the principal contractor for cleanup work at the Love Canal in 1979. The work at Love Canal would prove to be just the beginning, as over a period of time, it became apparent that hazardous waste cleanup needs were not limited to Western New York. This allowed for the Sevenson Corporations to continue to grow and prosper into the company it has become today.
Arthur Elia is survived, foremost, by Shirley, his wife of 63 years; by their children: Laurence A. Elia, Michael A. (Karin) Elia, Richard A. (Christina) Elia, and Christine E. (Philip) DeLuca, all of Wilson; as well as 14 grandchildren: Samia, Arthur, Anthony, Jennifer, Michael, Jessica, Michelle, Richard II, Rachel, Joseph, Lauren, Adrien, Alexa, and Justin; and finally by eight great-grandchildren. Moreover, he is survived by two sisters, Irene and Ida; and is predeceased by brothers Albert, Alfred, and Alan, and sisters Elena and Yolanda. He is also survived by countless nieces, nephews, and cousins.
With its home base and heart still in Niagara Falls, the Elia family continues to be involved in the community and continues to be recognized for their gracious contributions to the greater good. Arthur will always be remembered for these accomplishments, as well as for his many stories, his wisdom, and his devotion to his family. He has countless loved ones intent on continuing his legacy, and who are committed to honoring the great times and memories shared by all those who met him. Arthur will always be there to keep a watchful eye over the business and the family he worked his entire life to create.
A memorial service was held Tuesday, Dec. 27, at St. Brendan on the Lake in Newfane. In lieu of gifts, the family asks that donations be made in his honor to Niagara Hospice House, 4675 Sunset Drive, Lockport, NY 14094.
Arrangements by M.J. Colucci & Son Niagara Funeral Chapel, 2730 Military Road Niagara Falls. Visit www.mjcoluccifuneralchapel.com for an online guest register.