Antoinette "Nellie" Santora Rynkowski, a retired restaurant co-owner of pioneering pizza chain Santora's, died Nov. 11 in a Texas hospital from complications of heart surgery. She was 88.
Born in Mount Morris, she and her family moved to Buffalo when her father returned from World War I. Reared with two sisters, she attended School 6 and Hutchinson-Central High School.
She married Anthony Santora in 1937. The following year, she had her first taste of food service when she began selling ice cream for her father-in-law on William Street.
In 1943, her husband and his family members opened Santora's Pizzeria at 264 Seneca St. The success of the business prompted the opening of Santora's at 2500 Main St. in 1951 and 729 Main St. in 1953.
She worked in all capacities of restaurant operations -- doing everything from managing the store to washing dishes. After her husband died in 1971, she continued to manage the business, providing the financing and opening two more business with her two sons -- at 2501 Harlem Road in Cheektowaga and 9334 Transit Road in East Amherst.
In 1976, she retired as president of the corporation.
Four years later, she married Leonard Rynkowski, and they moved to Las Vegas in 1991. They moved to Richmond, Texas, in 2003.
Surviving, in addition to her husband, are a son, Anthony Santora Jr. of Las Vegas; two granddaughters; and five great-grandchildren.