FULTON — Francis Mirabito, 91, of Fulton, New York passed away Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. He died peacefully at St. Luke’s from complications of COVID-19 after suffering with Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
Mr. Mirabito was born on June 17, 1929 in the living room above his parents’ corner grocery store on Erie Street. He was so small, his mother bundled him in a shoebox and placed it on top of the stove to keep him warm. Francis worked as a young boy in the family business after school and on weekends. As a youngster, he, and his sister Anna quietly sold lettuce door-to-door to neighbors. When their father discovered the entrepreneurial venture, he required them to return the money and let the customers keep the lettuce.
After graduating with the Fulton High School class of 1947, he attended his beloved St. Bonaventure University and graduated with a degree in finance. Francis was a lifelong fan of Bonnies basketball.
He was a United States veteran, having served in the Army from 1951-1953 where he learned among other things, the morning reveille. To this day, his grown children fondly recall, “I can’t get ‘em up, I can’t get ‘em up, I can’t get ‘em up in the morning.” Upon being honorably discharged from the military he joined the family grocery business.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1953 (one of the few days the family business was closed), he married his high school sweetheart, Charlene Lysick. Francis began to help propel the growth of the well-known Mirabito’s grocery stores along with his father and brothers. During this time, he introduced thousands of new grocery products to the Fulton community as the Mirabito stores became an important test market for National Consumer Brands. Customers enjoyed meeting the Jolly Green Giant, Wonder Bread Giant, Aunt Jemima, Laramie Jordan and other celebrities who visited the stores during the promotional events.
Francis expanded the business to Minetto and brought the modern Village Market to the Hannibal community. Francis genuinely loved interacting with customers and employees. Hundreds of young people were privileged to have been mentored in their first job by Mr. Mirabito. He also chose to give special consideration to hiring veterans returning home from Vietnam.
Francis was a member of the NYS Food Merchants and National Grocers Association, and he won numerous national awards for his merchandising and advertising. Francis was a member and longtime officer of O’Conner-Mosher & Co., a Syracuse based grocery wholesaler serving nearly every independent retailer in central New York.
Mr. Mirabito’s community leadership included serving on the organizing board of directors of Oswego County Opportunities, as trustee of Columbia Savings Bank, as well as Oswego County Cooperative Extension, the Cracker Barrel Fair and Chocolate Fest. He was a past longtime member of the Fulton Polish Home and Kiwanis.
Francis was also a tireless supporter of countless community fundraisers and he sponsored dozens of youth sports teams.
He was a communicant of Holy Family Church, where he served on the Holy Family Church Parish Council, and he chaired the Fulton Ecumenical Council helping facilitate interfaith understanding throughout the community. Francis was also a member of the board of Aurora of Central New York.
In 1963, Francis and Charlene bought a 73-acre farm to raise their growing family along with cows, goats, and various other barnyard animals. He loved hosting his family and friends and was particularly accomplished at barbecuing steaks and chicken. Francis also enjoyed making wine from grapes grown in his Sicilian-style grape arbor.
In later years, he and Charlene enjoyed traveling, visiting their children and working in their garden. Francis always saw the good in people. He never had a bad word to say about anyone and treated all with respect. He was an extraordinary father and grandfather, instilling the values of integrity, hard work and compassion.
Francis started each day singing a verse to his family from the musical “Oklahoma!” “Oh, what beautiful morning, Oh, what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful feeling, Everything’s going my way.” He ended each night by enjoying a delicious bowl of ice cream.
Francis was predeceased by his parents, Ross and Frances (Zaia) Mirabito, his brother Angelo, and sisters Catherine Boon, Anna (Sister Frances Teresa) and Mary Joan Holdorf.
Francis is survived by his lifelong love and inseparable companion of more than 67 years Charlene L. Mirabito of Fulton; their six children and their spouses, Ann (Frank Snyder) of Fort Worth, Texas; James (Cindy) of Fulton; Susan of Denver; Daniel of Boston, Massachusetts; Stephen (Joyce) of Lafayette, California; and Sara (Riccardo Pieri) of Seattle, Washington; his siblings, Barbara Thomas, Teresa Mirabito, Margaret Bocsor and Thomas (Lois), Peter (Debbie) and Paul (Barbara) Mirabito. He is also survived by his beloved 15 grandchildren, Vicki, Todd, Michael, Whitney, Morgan, Elena, Christian, Neil, Bennett, John, Charlie, Madeline, Anthony, Claire and Olivia; nine great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Parish, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by the Rev. John Canorro.
Burial will be held in the spring at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Fulton.
Calling hours will be private.
Military honors will be bestowed graveside in June on a day to be announced when family and friends will be able to safely attend.
The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Fulton Polish Home Scholarship Fund: 153 W. First St. S., Fulton, NY 13069 or to Aurora of Central New York: 518 James St., Suite 100, Syracuse, NY 13203.
In accordance with New York state mandates, face masks, hand sanitizing and signing in at church will be required for attendance to the funeral Mass.
Arrangements are in care of Sugar Funeral Home, Inc., Fulton.