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Joseph W. Grieco, former president of O-Cel-O; March 28, 1925 -- April 1, 2012

Joseph W. Grieco of Orchard Park, the former president of the O-Cel-O sponge corporation, died of heart disease Sunday in Mercy Hospital. He was 87.

As head of O-Cel-O for more than a decade during the late 1970s and '80s, Mr. Grieco dramatically increased the company's workforce, expanded the manufacturing plant and opened new markets.

During his nearly 40-year career at the company, O-Cel-O grew from fewer than 100 employees and $4 million in sales to more than 400 employees and more than $46 million in sales.

Born and raised in Buffalo, Mr. Grieco graduated from Bennett High School in 1942.

He was drafted into the Army during World War II, serving in the Philippines. A staff sergeant, Mr. Grieco received several military commendations, including the Bronze Star, as well as the American Theater, Asiatic-Pacific Theater and Philippine Liberation ribbons.

After the war, Mr. Grieco returned to Buffalo, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from the University of Buffalo in 1950. That same year, he married Theresa Sorell. They bought their first home in Kenmore and had two sons.

In 1951, Mr. Grieco started in the laboratory at O-Cel-O, located in the Town of Tonawanda. The company became a subsidiary of General Mills, and over the years, Mr. Grieco moved up the ranks. He was named plant manager and director of operations in 1971 and appointed president of the General Mills division in 1978.

In 1988, he was also named a vice president of General Mills.

Mr. Grieco retired in 1991, the same year General Mills sold O-Cel-O to its sister entity, 3M.

During retirement, Mr. Grieco focused on traveling with his wife.

Besides his wife of nearly 62 years, Mr. Grieco is survived by two sons, David M. and Jeffrey J.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 26 Thorn Ave., Orchard Park.