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Pat Pizzuto, veteran produce man, dies at 90

by Brian Gaylord | August 10, 2010
Pat Pizzuto Sr., owner of the former Waltham Fruit Co. in Cambridge, MA, died July 4 after a brief illness. He was 90 years old.

Mr. Pizzuto, who grew up in Cambridge, lost his father at age 12 and dropped out of school at 15 to work at Waltham Fruit to help support his mother and eight siblings.

In 1943, Mr. Pizzuto opened three retail produce stores with his wife, Mary. In 1949, he returned to Waltham Fruit and purchased the company.

Mr. Pizzuto and his sons, Pat Jr. and Robert, expanded the wholesale business into one of the leading produce purveyors in the greater Boston area and beyond. Waltham Fruit supplied supermarkets, military bases, independent markets, restaurants, schools and individual consumers.

Pat Pizzuto Jr. told The Produce News Aug. 9 that Waltham Fruit had been very much a family business. He said that at various times, family working at the store included his mother, wife, sister and sister-in-law.

Led by Pat Pizzuto Sr.'s thoroughness, Waltham Fruit prided itself on handling same-day delivery to its customers — including in a pinch.

"We stayed open through the blizzard of ’78," Pat Pizzuto Jr. said, adding that Waltham Fruit serviced retail grocery chains Star Market and Stop & Shop throughout that crisis.

In 2009, the city of Cambridge dedicated a street corner to Pat Pizzuto Sr. in recognition of his 50 years of dedicated service to the community. “Unless he was in the hospital, he worked every day,” Mr. Pizzuto Jr. said of his father.

Pat Pizzuto Sr. was one of five founding members and an officer, president and treasurer in the Santa Lucia Society in Cambridge.

“He did everything his way, and I was always by his side,” Mr. Pizzuto Jr. said.

Anthony Sharrino, president and treasurer of Eaton & Eustis Co. at the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA, said that Mr. Pizzuto was a “classy, stand-up guy” who was dedicated to his business and who worked long hours.

“I remember him calling an employee at home on a Monday morning at 5 a.m.,” Mr. Sharrino said. “Pat said, 'Hurry up and get out of bed — it’s almost tomorrow.’ I never forgot it — I still use it.”

The Rev. Joseph Baggetta, a close friend of Mr. Pizzuto Sr. and the Pizzuto family, gave a eulogy at Pat Pizzuto Sr.’s funeral Mass.

“He was an extremely generous man,” Father Baggetta said. “There were many things he did to help the poor.”

In 2006, the Pizzuto family sold Waltham Fruit to Baldor Specialty Foods Inc. Pat Pizzuto Sr. was active with Waltham Fruit in every aspect of the business. In his later years, he managed accounts payable until he retired with the sale of Waltham Fruit.

Following the sale to Baldor, Pat Pizzuto Jr. joined Baldor as a buyer and his brother, Robert, works for Whole Foods Market’s operation in Bedford, MA. Mr. Pizzuto is survived by his wife of 68 years, Mary A. (Ferolito) Pizzuto; daughter Maryann Brosnahan and husband John of Cambridge; son Patrick Jr. and wife Joanne of Lexington, MA; son Robert and wife Libby of Arlington, MA; a sister, Sarah Falese; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Contributions in Pat Pizzuto Sr.’s memory may be made to the Mount Auburn Hospital Development Office, 330 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138.