June 2, 1943 – Aug. 23, 2017
Joe Sgroi was the youngest personnel manager at General Mills when his Air Force Reserve unit was activated during the Pueblo Crisis in 1968.
After serving for a year in the Vietnam War as the head of a supply center at Tuy Hoa Air Base, he returned to General Mills and was given a new assignment with the O-CEL-O sponge division. When the company wanted to transfer him to another city, he looked for a new career.
With a friend, Don Reeves, he started a personnel business in 1971, then got licensed with Bankers Life Insurance, now Principal Financial Group.
“He took one life insurance class in college and he liked it,” his son, Patrick, said. “He went out selling. He was in his little VW Bug, knocking on doors all day long.”
That was the beginning of Sgroi Financial. Based in West Seneca, it now serves clients in several states with a staff of more than 25. Mr. Sgroi won numerous awards as a top salesman and was inducted into Principal’s Hall of Fame.
“He was very upbeat, very effusive,” his son said. “He was in sales, but he wasn’t a salesman.”
Mr. Sgroi died Aug. 23 in Fox Run, Orchard Park. He was 74.
At the age of 11, following the death of his mother, H. Joseph Sgroi began working after school for his father, Humphrey O. Sgroi, a Buffalo teacher who owned Humphrey Hardware on Abbott Road at Columbus Avenue.
He was a 1960 graduate of Bishop Timon High School, where he was an honor student. After completing his degree business at the University at Buffalo at the age of 20, he began working in the personnel department at General Mills.
Mr. Sgroi branched into tax sheltered annuities in 1972 after his sister Serena, a Buffalo teacher, asked him about 403 (b) retirement plans. He talked with Eugene Reville, then business administrator for Buffalo schools, who told him that if he could get 50 applications for the plans, he would be allowed to provide the service.
He succeeded and went on to provide retirement plans for school districts throughout the area. When Principal stopped providing the plans, he went independent in 1985, offering life and disability insurance as well.
He was a top 10 adviser for Cadaret, Grant & Co. and was one of the inaugural members of its Hall of Fame. His son Patrick succeeded him as president and he retired in 2014. Another son, Jeff, who was chief financial officer, died in 2016.
Active in numerous community organizations, Mr. Sgroi was past president of the Mercy Hospital Foundation Board of Directors, former chairman of the Sisters of Mercy Development Council Board of Directors and past president and board chairman of the West Seneca Chamber of Commerce.
He was an honorary life member of the West Seneca Rotary Club, where he served as president and board chairman. He was a former Area II Rotary chairman and former president and treasurer of the West Seneca Rotary Foundation.
He was a consultant, lecturer and former member of the state board of directors for the Distributive Education Clubs of America (D.E.C.A.) and served as judge at state, regional and national competitions.
He was a leader in the West Seneca Rotary Foundation’s development of the Harvest Hill Golf Course and provided funding to purchase extra land for the facility. He also was instrumental in establishing the First Tee of Western New York at Harvest Hill, a program that encourages young people to play golf. It is one of the largest First Tee programs in the nation.
Mr. Sgroi also received numerous honors. He was the West Seneca Jaycees 1985 Man of the Year, the West Seneca Chamber of Commerce 1988 Citizen of the Year and the West Seneca Chamber of Commerce 2001 Member of the Year.
He received Trocaire College’s Reflections Award in 2002. He and his wife were presented with the Gold Meritorious Award from the Church of Scientology for providing major support for the acquisition and renovation of the church’s current center in downtown Buffalo.
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, the former Elizabeth “Betsy” Clouden; two sons, Patrick and Gregory; a daughter, Jennifer; two brothers, Francis and George Rhoads; two sisters, Serena and Bonnie Franco; and five grandchildren.
Services were private.