Michael P. Pinelli Sr. of the Town of Tonawanda, one of the originators of Buffalo's annual Italian Festival, died Monday in DeGraff Memorial Hospital, North Tonawanda, after a brief illness. He was 77.
Mr. Pinelli owned and operated Pinelli's Food Concessions, setting up at fairs and carnivals around Western New York and throughout the East Coast. A former president of the West Side Businessmen's Association, he helped found the Italian Festival on Connecticut Street in the 1970s.
He was honored as Man of the Year by the Sorrento Italian Heritage Festival in 2006.
Born in Buffalo, he was an outstanding boxer in the 145-pound class as a young man and served as a boxer in Special Services in the Marine Corps.
Returning from service, he worked as a butcher for Delmar Provisions, then took a construction job and opened a deli at the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Bryant Street. He founded the food concession business in 1964, beginning with a stand at the Erie County Fair, where he and his family sold Italian sausage and fried dough.
"He loved the business," his wife of 58 years, the former Marjorie E. Shantler, said. "We used to do 30 spots up and down the East Coast from May to October until he retired 10 years ago. Then we just did three spots a year."
He was a past Kiwanis Club president and a member of the New York State Showmen's Association and the International Showmen's Association.
He donated the use of his concession trailers to the Town of Tonawanda Police Department Explorer Program and to National Hose Company No. 1 in the City of Tonawanda for fundraising. He also taught boys to box in the Buffalo Police Athletic League. He received a lifetime service award from the West Side Businessmen's Association.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Michael Jr., and three daughters, Sharon Botticello, Lynn Chaffee and Tammy Simonian.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:15 a.m. Friday in St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, 885 Sweet Home Road, Amherst.