Devoted family man, decorated military veteran, business icon, civic leader, and community philanthropist, Albert Covelli, passed away Saturday, May 3, 2014, at the age of 94 surrounded by his loving family.
Mr. Covelli was a brilliant, highly-skilled businessman whose philosophy for a successful life was to stay grateful, humble and focused on family. This philosophy guided him to one of the most prestigious business careers in the history of the Mahoning Valley.
Mr. Covelli was known for his dedication, his kindness and his compassion for people here and in Florida where he made his home in the winter months. Mr. Covelli was a role model, a man of vision, integrity, honesty, ethics and commitment.
Mr. Covelli was the founder of Covelli Enterprises the nations largest franchisee of Panera Bread and the 4th largest restaurant franchisee in the country. Previous to that Covelli Enterprises was the largest franchisee of McDonalds restaurants in the nation.
Born in Kenosha, Wis., Mr. Covelli was a decorated Military Lieutenant in World War II. He began his business career by opening an open air market in Kenosha which quickly expanded to three locations. He then founded a produce company and added a distributorship for frozen foods and dairy.
In 1959, Al, his beloved wife Jo, and their children Annette and Sam, moved to Warren to open up his first McDonalds restaurant. In the nearly 40 years that followed Covelli Enterprises became the largest franchisee of McDonalds restaurants opening 50 units in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In 1997, Al and his son Sam sold their interest in McDonalds and began franchising Panera Bread restaurants. Since that time the company has become the largest franchisee of Panera Breads with over 250 locations in five states and Canada and currently employs in excess of 25,000 people which include over 2,000 people locally.
As a result of his success Mr. Covelli received numerous awards and honors from business groups across the country including recently being inducted into Central Floridas Hospitality Hall of Fame and being given the first ever Pioneer Award by Panera Bread for his innovation and accomplishments.
Mr. Covelli considered his customers to be part of his extended family. As a result giving back to those people in the communities where he had restaurants was a way of life. Through the years he donated millions of dollars to hundreds of charitable organizations to support those in need. Fueled by his love for his grand children and great grand children he was especially fond of charities focused on improving the lives of young people. He started the companys commitment to the U. S. Marines Toys for Tots program. For the past 25 years Covelli Enterprises has been the largest local sponsor of the program donating in excess of $500,000.
He was a man of strong faith. He was an active member at Blessed Sacrament parish in Warren and gave both of his time and treasure for the betterment of the church and diocese. His generosity also extended to John F. Kennedy High School where he was one of the primary contributors to many of the schools programs. His legacy will live on at the school through a recently created scholarship fund in his name which will award $5,000 per student to 10 students each year who show exemplary academic and leadership skills. He was also a supporter of the University of Notre Dame through the Sorin Society which provides help to deserving students in need to be able to afford attending Notre Dame.
For his generosity Mr. Covelli received accolades by countless communities and charitable organizations over the years including being honored with his wife as recipients of the 2013 Outstanding Individual Philanthropist Award by the Hibiscus Childrens Center of Florida and being recognized by the City of Winter Park Florida with Al Covelli Day in honor of his philanthropic contributions.
Mr. Covelli also had a long history of civic involvement, serving on numerous boards including the boards of banks, hospitals, universities, and nonprofit organizations. He was instrumental in helping to start the Ronald McDonald House with his involvement on their planning Board. He served on the St. Joseph Hospital Board, the Board of Directors for Second National Bank, Warren Chamber of Commerce, President of the National Operators Advisory Board, President of the Northeast Ohio Advertising Co-OP Board for McDonalds, the Kent State University Board and many others.
Al will be deeply missed by his devoted, loving wife of 66 years, Josephine; his daughter, Mrs. Annette (Gavin) Ford; his son, Mr. Sam (Caryn) Covelli; his grandchildren, Mr. Kevin (Kerry) Ricci, Mrs. Lauren (Chris) DeVaux, Ms. Candace Covelli, Mr. Albert M. Covelli II, Ms. Danielle Covelli, Mr. Justin Ford; and his great grandchildren, Alexandria, Barrett, and Mackenzie Brody.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Hibiscus Childrens Center 2400 N E Dixie Hwy., Jensen Beach FL 34957, John F. Kennedy High School 2550 Central Parkway, SE, Warren, OH 44484, The Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County PO Box 66 Vienna, OH 44473.
Family and friends may call Friday, May 9, 2014, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 10, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Church 3020 Reeves Rd. NE, Warren, Ohio 44483.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 11 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Church with The Most Reverand George V. Murry, S.J., Ph.D. Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown officiating.
Arrangements are being handled by Peter Rossi & Son Memorial Chapel, 1884 North Rd. NE, Warren, Ohio 44483.
Family and friends may visit www.peterrossiandsonfh.com to view this obituary, sign the guest book, and send condolences to the Covelli family.
Peter Rossi & Son Chapel
1884 North Road NE
Warren, OH 44483
Published online at KenoshaNews.com on May 6, 2014