Gregory Villella of East Quogue, N.Y., a self-made entrepreneur and businessman in downtown Riverhead for three decades, died April 27, 2011. He was 95 years old.
Born in Falerna, Italy, on Feb. 25, 1916, Gregory was one of six children of Dominick and Raphaella Villella. He began training as a shoemaker at the age of 10 under the watchful eye of his grandfather in his hometown of Falerna. There were no factories at that time and all the shoes were made by hand. Gregory also had a love for music, and in between the time spent in school and shoemaking, he became an accomplished musician and music teacher.
Following his father, also a shoemaker, he immigrated at age 18 to America, where he worked at Miller, a Manhattan shoemaker, followed by Leo Theatrical Shoe Company and Capezio, where he made dance shoes for the well-known professional dancers of that era.
In 1942, he opened his own store in Brooklyn, Gregory Rx Orthopedic, specializing in orthopedic and corrective footwear. It was in Brooklyn that he met Anna Cirillo, who became his wife in 1941. Anna was his lifelong partner, working side by side with him in the business. In 1955, Gregory moved his family and business to Riverhead, N.Y., where he opened a full-service family footwear store on Griffing Avenue. Eight years later he moved Villella Shoes to a larger retail space on East Main Street, where the business operated until 1998.
Mr. Villella was long active in local fraternal and business organizations. He was a member of Riverhead Kiwanis for more than 30 years and treasurer of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce for 28 years. He was also a member of the Riverhead Town Advisory Committee.
He is survived by his son Vincent, of Wading River, a former Riverhead Town supervisor, and his family, Ellen, Jason and Aimee; his son Dominick of Granby, Conn., and his family, Christina, Michael, Steven and Kerry; and six great-grandchildren. His former daughter-in-law, Maureen Villella, who also survives him, was his caregiver in the last year of his life.
He was predeceased by his wife of 53 years, Anna, in 1994, and by his daughter-in-law Barbara; his sisters, Julia and Alba; and his brothers, John, Olindo and Oscar.
The family received visitors Sunday, May 1, at Reginald H. Tuthill Funeral Home, Riverhead. A private funeral was held May 2 at St. John’s Cemetery in Riverhead.
Memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 75 Davids Drive, Hauppauge, NY 11788.
This is a paid notice.