March 27, 1922 – June 8, 2014
Joseph L. Fiorella, of Amherst, manager of the Hengerer’s department store in Eggertsville for more than 20 years, died Sunday in ElderWood Health Care, Amherst. He was 92.
Born in Batavia, one of eight children, he joined the Navy after graduating from Batavia High School and served in World War II as a Seabee based in Guam.
Returning from service, he earned an associate’s degree from Millard Fillmore College at the University of Buffalo.
Mr. Fiorella joined Hengerer’s in 1946 as a salesman in the women’s shoe department in the flagship store in downtown Buffalo, then was assistant manager of the shoe salon for several years. In the mid-1950s, he became a buyer of fashion fabrics for the store, traveling monthly to New York City.
In 1960, he was named manager of the Hengerer’s branch at Main Street and Eggert Road, which opened two years earlier. The store was known for its winter holiday programs and its community activities.
In 1978, Mr. Fiorella was given an Amherst Senior Center Brotherhood Award for hosting yearly exhibits of paintings by center members and a fashion show and breakfast for them in the store’s tea room. He retired in 1982, a year after Hengerer’s merged with Sibley’s.
Mr. Fiorella was one of the leaders in the drive to establish Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst. He served as chairman of the hospital’s board of directors during his 20 years as a board member.
He also served on the boards of Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle, the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and the Amherst Symphony Orchestra.
An accomplished drummer, he became a member of the Navy Seabees Swing Band, directed by George Liberace, which entertained troops throughout the Pacific. In later years, when George Liberace was bandleader for his famous piano-playing brother, he joined the Fiorellas for dinner every time they performed locally.
Mr. Fiorella continued playing drums well into his 70s and performed at social events with Eddie Diem and His Orchestra. He also led a small combo that played during Thanksgiving dinner at Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center for many years.
A 43-year member of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, he was a devoted grandfather and enjoyed gardening and cooking.
Survivors include his wife of 68 years, the former Josephine Gennaro; a son, Louis M.; a daughter, Janice A. Sacca; and three grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in St. Gregory the Great Church, 200 St. Gregory Court at Maple Road, Amherst.