City mourns passing of community icon
ROME — Long-time Rome Area Chamber of Commerce president William K. Guglielmo, who recently announced his retirement after 50 years of service to the community, has died.
According to his obituary, Guglielmo passed away on Thursday, Feb. 23, as the result of an illness contracted in 2022 with his loving wife, Luba, by his side.
Guglielmo was born in Rome and graduated from Rome Free Academy in 1967. He then graduated from Morrisville College in 1969 with an associate of applied science degree in business administration, and the University of Buffalo in 1971, where he earned his bachelor’s of science degree in management science.
“Bill was one of my closest friends over 40 years. He was truly a champion of Rome and the work of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce,” said Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo on Friday. “His heart was always in the right place. He was a facilitator for bringing people together, organizing meetings and just being the most vocal advocate — whatever the subject matter was concerning city initiatives or chamber events. Bill just felt as though everything that was good for the community was worth being involved in.”
The mayor continued, “His career spanned almost 50 years and in that time, he rose through the ranks at the chamber, finally succeeding to the president position. And he grasped that with a lot of energy, and put his own stamp on his time as president of the chamber.”
As for filling Guglielmo’s shoes at the chamber, “I think it will be very difficult to replace him, because he was so passionate about his work, the city and the community he loved, and it showed in everything he did. I know we will miss him greatly as part of the Honor America Days Committee — he poured his heart and soul into that each year, and we always joke that is a labor of love, because we always had such a good time planning the event. We never had a meeting with a disagreement; it was always positive and the best part of the day for everyone. He was an extremely big part of that — he was very organized. All of us were involved in the details, but Bill would always make sure we had all our bases covered.”
She said, “He was like that with any task he took on for the chamber. This was someone who was planning meetings from his hospital bed as recently as a few months ago. Of course my heart goes out today to Luba and his mom, Alice. Bill was very much a family man and very devoted to Luba and his mom. There are big shoes to fill with the passing of Bill. I hope over the next week, people will remember him and be telling stories. He would want us to celebrate his life.”
County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. shared that it will be difficult to envision things going forward without Guglielmo.
“He was part of everything — not just the City of Rome, but the entire county and region —because Bill was everywhere. And he was part of it — he didn’t just show up,” Picente said. “He did things and got involved. For me, as a friend and family, it’s just so sad. Any time I would call him with some initiative we wanted to put together he would be there, or he would reach out to me and ask, ‘What can I do?,’ and there he was.”
Picente said, “He really is an icon. Sometimes that word gets over-used in different things and for people, but in his case, it is appropriate. For this community, he was. It will really be hard — whether it be planning Honor America Days, or when I go to meetings or we do chamber events — pick one and not seeing him there is really going to be difficult.”
City Chief of Staff Lawrence L. Daniello said his friendship with Guglielmo was much deeper than their work relationship or the one built as a member of the Honor America Days Committee.
“Bill and I go way back — He lived right around the corner from me. I fondly remember him driving his black Firebird. It was always a thrill,” Daniello shared. “Even if he’d disagree with you, you’d never know it. He never let anything interfere with our friendship. As soon as you knew him, he was your friend. This year will be the 40th anniversary of Honor America Days, and I can’t imagine him not being there.”
Guglielmo began his career at the chamber in February 1973 during the Richard Nixon administration. He earned the role as president of the chamber in 1996, and had led the Rome Chamber until his retirement announcement last month.
Guglielmo began as a staff assistant with the Rome Chamber in 1973. At the time, the chamber was located on the second floor of the Niagara Mohawk Building at 127 W. Liberty St. Guglielmo worked his way up to director of Government Affairs & Membership Development, administrator, executive vice-president and then president in 1996.
For much of the past half-century, he was synonymous with business development in the Copper City; a staunch advocate for the community and its business sector.
“During my 50-year career with the chamber, I thoroughly enjoyed working with the dedicated membership who volunteered their time, talent and resources, offering programs to promote business opportunities and encourage economic growth in Rome and the region,” Guglielmo wrote to the chamber’s Executive Board in announcing his retirement.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work alongside so many creative, dedicated, and sincere people. I will miss all of them dearly, and with very fond remembrances,” he said. “Thank you for the opportunity to play a part in successfully advocating for the Rome business community.”
According to Guglielmo’s obituary, during his career at the chamber, the Board of Directors had the foresight to provide educational opportunities for the staff. Bill participated in major programs dealing with multiple facets of chamber of commerce management, including financial operations, sales, marketing, promotion, and advocacy.
He graduated from the 6-year Institute of Organization Management program sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, each held for one week in June, at the University of Notre Dame.
Guglielmo was a member of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Business Council of NYS, and the Mohawk Valley Alliance of Chambers of Commerce and Affiliate Partners, a 23-member organization that consists of 12 chambers and 11 business organizations in the six-county region.
Rome Area Chamber of Commerce officials, past and present, offered their words honoring Guglielmo:
• John Calabrese, current Chairman of the Board: “Bill Guglielmo was one of the kindest and most genuine people that I have ever known. A true gentleman in every regard. My dear friend. I will miss him. As we all know, Bill was an icon in the Rome community. The greatest champion for the business community and the Rome Chamber of Commerce members that you will ever find. His life’s work was to make Rome a great place to live, work and raise a family. He dedicated 50 years of his life as the leader of the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce in support of that mission. He always did it in the most authentic, genuine and passionate way.”
Calabrese continued, “For those who know Bill, you know that he always put others in the spotlight and helped them shine. He was the one behind the scenes, taking the photos, introducing others — while he put so much work in behind the scenes, focusing on each and every important detail. He so many times, was the force that brought people together, to work through challenging times and foster collaboration and growth. He was a steady hand and a driving force in the Rome community.”
He said, “The Rome Chamber of Commerce is what it is today because of Bill and all that he has done. I truly cherish the time that I had working with Bill at the Rome Chamber of Commerce. There are many moments and memories that I will never forget. What will always be at the forefront of my mind is that Bill Guglielmo was a wonderful human being — a one-of-a-kind person — a person who has made such a positive impact on our region and the people around him. Bill is the Rome Chamber of Commerce, and we will honor him with everything that we do as we move forward.”
• Doug Bartell, Chairman 2008-09: “Bill was a consummate gentleman, good friend, and tireless advocate for the area. I’ll never see a fedora and not smile and fondly think of Bill. God speed my friend.”
• Greg Mattacola, Chairman 2007-08, current Vice-chair” “Bill was the best ambassador for the Rome community that you could ever ask for. For 50 years, he worked tirelessly to be an advocate for the business community and to improve the fabric of life in Rome. He was a constant through the years, spanning seven mayors, and was the embodiment of a true professional.”
Mattacola said, “His positivity, knowledge and attention to detail were beyond compare. Beyond that, he was an absolute gentleman and a joy to know and work with. I consider it a blessing to have worked with him and to count him as a friend. His legacy and influence will live on.”
• Carole Manuele, Chairman 2014-15: “Bill was a wealth of knowledge regarding the city of Rome and its businesses. If you had a question about a person, business or an event that happened in the last 50 years, Bill could tell you everything about it. That’s including dates, names, places, and probably the names of everybody on the common council at the time. He remembered everything in great detail. All you had to do was ask and he had the answer. I think he really enjoyed sharing all that knowledge when asked.”
Manuele said, “It was an honor to work with him on the board and as chairman. I will always be grateful for the way he pushed me out of my comfort zone. And he always had a way to interject his unique brand of humor while doing so. He will truly be missed.”
• Deb Grogan, Chairman 2010-12, current Treasurer: “Bill had a tremendous passion for the members of the Rome Chamber, the community of Rome and the volunteers. Bill was a very humble person, and a great mentor.”
• Michael Manuele, Chairman 2012-14: “During my first year as chairman of the board, I met Bill early at a business after hours. We pulled in the parking lot at the same time. He pulled into a spot and I backed into the spot next to him. He put his arm around me, looked me in the eye and said, ‘People that back into a parking space are more interested in leaving than attending.’ He had a way of conveying a thought which made you think about it. I’ve never backed into a parking spot since.”
• Sue Pardi, Business Manager/Health Insurance Broker, Rome Area Chamber of Commerce: “I am so thankful for my 25 years working with Bill. He was more than a boss; he was a great friend with a wonderful family. Bill was the most knowledgeable, hard-working, compassionate person I’ve known, and he will be truly missed.”
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