Aug. 5, 1940 – Feb. 16, 2018
Joe Valvo grew up on roller skates.
His parents, Russ and Carm Valvo, owned the Angola Rollercade and, while he was growing up, the roller skating rink was the center of teen life in the southern Erie County village.
“That’s where I first met him,” his wife of 54 years, the former Frances Andalino, said. “He used to work for his father and hand out skates.”
He also was a dancer on skates and took part in competitions locally. One of his brothers, Michael, traded his roller skates for ice skates and performed with the Ice Capades.
Mr. Valvo went on to become partner in a rink of his own, the Carousel Skating Center in Niagara Falls, and ran it successfully for five years until Benderson Development Corp. converted the property into a shopping mall, Factory Outlets of Niagara Falls.
“There are still parts of the hardwood floor in one of the stores,” his wife said.
He died Friday in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga, after a short illness. He was 77.
Born in Jamestown, the oldest of five children, Joseph Russell Valvo moved to Angola as a child when his father decided to build a roller skating rink there after his partnership in a Dunkirk rink dissolved. The family lived in a small apartment attached to the rink on Lake Street.
Although he was immersed in skating, his greater passion was baseball. He played Little League ball and at Lake Shore Central High School, where he graduated in 1959.
“He really came into his own over his senior year and playing in the suburban leagues,” said his wife, who is pictured with him. “He went to Florida to try out for the major leagues, but had to come home when he got an infected tooth.”
Mr. Valvo, a knuckleball pitcher, played for his hometown Angola team in the Buffalo Evening News Suburban League and for the Cheektowaga Travelers in the Classic Baseball League. His proudest effort was a 4-2 victory over a North Collins team that had major leaguer Marion Fricano on the mound.
He was twice chosen as Player of the Week by the Buffalo Evening News Suburban Baseball Association, in 1960 and 1963, and was interviewed both times on WBEN-TV by sportscaster Chuck Healy. He stopped pitching later in the 1960s after injuring his arm.
During that time, he began a career as a hair stylist. He worked for Headhunter Salon in Williamsville and trained at the Vidal Sassoon school in Los Angeles.
He and an associate at the salon went on to be among the first local franchise owners for the Fantastic Sam’s salon chain. They owned and operated shops on Seneca Street in South Buffalo and French Road in Cheektowaga.
“He always had a job and a business,” his wife said.
For a while, he also owned a printing shop in Hamburg. After the skating rink in Niagara Falls closed, he briefly operated another Carousel Skating Center near the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.
He also had a career as a guard. In the 1960s, he worked briefly at a state camp for drug-addicted youth in Medina. Later he was a corrections officer at Collins Correctional Center for 10 years and was a part-time security man at McKinley Mall.
“He always had a sense of humor,” his wife said. “The inmates liked him. He made them laugh.”
In addition to his wife, survivors include a daughter, Julie Lisy; two brothers, Michael and William; two sisters, Dianne Schuh and Susan Patelunas; and two grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Lombardo Funeral Home, 3060 Abbott Road, Orchard Park.