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Obituary: Phillip 'Russ' Rizzo

Fri, May 5th 2017 05:00 pm

North Tonawanda Common Council President Phillip "Russ" Rizzo, age 83, went home to be with the Lord on April 29, 2017, following a valiant battle with cancer.

Rizzo was born June 28, 1933 to parents Louis and Anna (nee Russell) Rizzo in Brockway, Pennsylvania. As a child, he moved to North Tonawanda, which became his lifelong home.

Russ served his country in the United States Army from 1951-1953. He married Mary (nee Keane) in 1959 and together they had four children: Joe (Valerie) Rizzo, Anne (Craig) Hering, Holly (Mike) McGinnis and Shari (Joe) Vitro. He cherished his role as "Papa" to his seven grandchildren: Russell and Jocelyn Rizzo; Emily and Joey Hering; Colin and Connor McGinnis; Christian Clark; Lizzy (Steven) Riley; and great granddaughters, Isla Belle Clark and Lilly Harwood. He is also survived by his loving nephews, Mark (Kathy) Jaccarino, Tom (Cindy) Jaccarino and Louis Rizzo; and niece, Pamela Tylee, along with great nephews and niece.

Rizzo was predeceased by his dear stepfather, Joseph Lombardo, and his siblings with whom he and Mary made many happy memories: brother and best friend, Louis "Red" Rizzo (Elvira "Rod") and sister Teresa Jaccarino (Joe "Jack").

Rizzo was an avid Bills fan and proud season ticket holder from day one. He enjoyed being an active member of his community as a parent, parishioner, volunteer, business owner and public servant. He prided himself on service his whole adult life. He was co-owner of Rizzo and Ricotta Office Products from 1980 to 2010.

In 2000 Rizzo began a new chapter in his life, serving North Tonawanda as alderman for 15 years and as Niagara County Legislator for two years. He was honored to serve his community as Common Council president from 2014-2016.

Rizzo was extremely humbled to be awarded the key to the city in February of 2017 when he retired from service.

Rizzo sincerely treasured his time in office. He loved helping his constituents, and was so thankful to have a part in improving Gratwick Riverside Park, often referring to it as the "Jewel of the 1st Ward." He was greatly honored to learn that a shelter was recently dedicated in his name there.

Rizzo loved God, his family, friends, the Buffalo Bills and his city. His friendly "hello" and bright smile always lit up the room. He will be remembered not only by his words but also for his actions. His heart of service was evident in all he did. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.

Friends and family are welcome for a memorial service in his honor from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 5, at Wattengel Funeral Home, 533 Meadow Drive in North Tonawanda A Mass of Christian burial will be held at noon on Saturday, May 6, at St. Jude the Apostle Parish, 800 Niagara Falls Blvd., in North Tonawanda.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Niagara Hospice graciously appreciated.

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