John J. Fanelli, 77
Owner/Operator Fanelli Amusement Company
FITCHBURG - John J. Fanelli, 77, of Fitchburg, died Wednesday, April 3, 2013 in Leominster Hospital after a brief illness.
John's father Vincenzo J. Fanelli emigrated from Cassano deMorge, Italy, his mother Rachel M. (Cosentino) Fanelli was from Fitchburg.
Born July 25, 1935 in the Canton Street section of town, John was an active member of the St. Anthony of Padua church throughout his life. A self-made, dedicated, and hardworking man from an early age, he was trained as a barber in Boston at age 15, opened John's Barber Shop on Water Street at age 17, and married Gina A. Perrone of Worcester a year later. Highly ambitious, he built himself a popcorn trailer at a young age and sold his wares at local festivals, which gave him his start in the amusement business.
He was perhaps best known for founding Fanelli Amusement Co. in 1956, a family-run traveling carnival that has operated all over New England for almost sixty years. John was a national authority on mechanical amusement rides of all sorts. He collected and restored countless early-to-mid 20th century merry-go-rounds throughout his life that still operate all over the world. An expert on carousels, he particularly loved the Herschell Spillman merry-go-rounds of the 1950's with their clean flourishes and bold colors. Both an engineer and an innovator, John's ability to design and create amusement rides that were more portable and thus better suited for traveling was unsurpassed.
John Fanelli remained active in local business, religious, and community affairs throughout his life, and ran numerous local businesses. He was a member of the Serra Club, the Sons of Italy, the Knights of Columbus, and was a longtime member of the Showman's League of America and the New England Showman's Association. He was a former president of the latter.
John is survived by his wife of sixty years Gina (Perrone) Fanelli, and their seven children: James of Fitchburg, Jack of Greenville NH, Rachel of Wrentham, Mark of Leominster, Mary of Leominster, Margaret of Fitchburg, and Kathryn of Amherst, as well as by eighteen grandchildren. He is predeceased by a sister Grace (Fanelli) Wheeler of Lunenburg.
His funeral will be held on Monday, April 8 from the Brandon Funeral Home, 305 Wanoosnoc Rd., with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 AM in St. Anthony di Padua Church, 84 Salem St. Entombment will take place in the St. Bernard's Cemetery. Calling hours in the funeral home will be held on Sunday, April 7, from 2-5 PM. Flowers may be sent or memorial contributions may be made to the American Lung Association
, 460 Totten Pond Rd #400, Waltham, MA 02451.
Published by Worcester Telegram & Gazette from Apr. 4 to Apr. 5, 2013.