Joseph P. Paonessa, a consummate volunteer worker, businessman and pioneer in the resettlement of the Love Canal Revitalization Area, died Monday in Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. He was 82.
A native of Niagara Falls, he played drums for the Gaskill School marching band, the AMVETS marching band and the Sons of the American Legion marching band as a teenager. He also organized his own dance band, all the while working for Power City Distributing Co. and Bell Aircraft Corp.
Mr. Paonessa served in the Coast Guard from 1944 to 1946, when he was discharged with the rank of seaman first class.
He studied electronics in Detroit, and his business career included 20 years as an appliance technician with Sears, owner of the Seneca Lounge, manager of the camera department at Kmart, lighting department manager at Hysen Supplies and account executive at Davis Electric Inc. He also owned and operated the Wilson Trading Post on Lake Road from 1984 to 1988.
Mr. Paonessa served as chairman of the Niagara Falls Home Improvement Registration and Review Board and was a charter member of the Niagara Falls Board of Examiners of Electricians. He was a member of the board of directors of the Health Association of Niagara County Inc. and chairman of the Home Show Committee of the Niagara County Builders Association.
In 1993, he became one of the first homeowners in Black Creek Village, the revitalized area of the Love Canal environmental disaster. He and his beloved partner, Trudy J. Christman, were given the LaSalle Business Association Community Service Award for 2004.
An 18-year member of AARP, Mr. Paonessa was given the AARP Amazing Volunteer Award in 2002 and its Community Service Award in 1995. He served many terms as president of the local AARP chapter and was its current vice president and representative to the Niagara County Council on Aging. He was liaison to the Niagara Falls Block Club Council, of which he was a past president.
Every Friday morning since 1987, he volunteered at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and counseled patients for Mended Hearts Inc., for which he earned a merit award. He was among the first CareVan drivers for the hospital.
He served three terms as president of the Niagara County Builders Association, 25 years as its home show chairman and received its "Man of the Year Award" and "President's Spike Award."
Mr. Paonessa was a former chairman of the BOCES Advisory Committee for Building Trades and one of the first volunteers for the Festival of Lights. Among his awards were the Pine Avenue Business Association's Special Citizens Award for 2004, the National Multiple Sclerosis Appreciation Award and the Tops Good Neighbor Award.
He also was a past president of the Niagara County Council on Aging, leader in the citywide Clean Sweeps sponsored by the Niagara Beautification Commission and a member of the Niagara Falls Senior Citizen Advisory Board and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.
His wife, Gertrude Daniels Paonessa, died in 1987.
Besides his partner, survivors include two daughters, Renee Fiorentini and Kathi Duff; a sister, Mary Pelsoni; and two brothers, Russell and Peter.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday in M.J. Colucci & Son Niagara Funeral Chapel, 2730 Military Road, Town of Niagara.