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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Commemorations and tributes from throughout the limousine industry are pouring onto social media and to LCT Magazine today as operators and industry members mourn the passing of Joseph Cirruzzo, Sr. Cirruzzo died early Wednesday morning at his home in Staten after a battle with cancer. He was with family members. He was 75.
Cirruzzo was a man of great stature in the limousine industry, running a company in New York City, serving on the board of directors of the National Limousine Association, standing tall as a mentor to many operators, and charming countless industry colleagues with his humor, verve and kindness.
Joey owned A Elegant Transportation Service/ELS Transportation Network and was a National Limousine Association (NLA) board member, most recently since 2008. On Oct. 8, Cirruzzo became only the sixth person to receive the NLA Industry Lifetime Achievement Award, the industry’s highest honor. The award was presented to him in his home by longtime NLA board director and Dav El CEO Scott Solombrino.
Cirruzzo served on the NLA Board of Directors from 2002 until 2005 and again from 2008 to the present time. He also served on the Taxi, Limousine and Paratransit Association Board of Directors, acting as the chairman of the limousine steering committee. In addition to these national roles, Cirruzzo was a member of the New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts industry associations. He also participated in the Airport Ground Transportation Association, the Global Business Travel Association, the American Society of Travel Agents, Meeting Planners International and the National Business Aircraft Association.
Cirruzzo believed he was a fighter for the small operators in the limousine industry. He often said he was looking out for their interests. Joey mentored many in the limousine industry. He always had time to assist new operators who wanted advice and to encourage them to become members of the NLA.
Prior to entering the limousine industry, Joey was a nationally known drag racer who raced funny cars in the 1960s and 70s under the name “Joe Black,” driving his green 1967 Chevrolet Camaro, the Green Hornet. Always wanting to buck the system, he raced a green colored car which was a taboo color in drag racing. He was a top money winner on the East Coast drag racing circuit until he retired in 1972 when his vehicle caught fire during a race. He raced among well known names in racing today.
Joey was recently honored at Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. for being the Grand Marshall of the track. As an alumni of drag racing, Joey built a replica of the Green Hornet and set up displays at local tracks where fans lined up to get pictures and autographs from him until his illness no longer allowed him to participate. He enjoyed the noise, smell and roar of the crowd at drag racing events and was honored to waive the flag to start the race.
Cirruzzo stopped racing finally after a crash in Pennsylvania where his car blew up completely. He had spent 10 years on the circuit, stopping in 1979. Cars were in Cirruzzo’s blood.
He initially took a job as a chauffeur for a New York City limousine company, driving a 1974 four-door Cadillac with jump seats. The company he worked with had contracts to transport celebrities, and Cirruzzo became a preferred chauffeur. He later bought a 1979 Cadillac limousine and booked his vehicle through other operators in the city. Through the years, his fleet and business grew. He later got out of the “metal business” altogether, forming one of the very first limousine networks. In 1991, he created the ELS Network which is comprised of independent professional limousine services around the globe.
Outside the limousine industry, Cirruzzo actively supported causes for animals such as the SPCA and the Humane Society. He was rarely without his own dog, Snowgirl, who he had featured on the Pinellas County Humane Society’s annual fundraising calendar for 2013.
At his second home near Tampa, Fla., where he was a snowbird spending half the year there and the other in Staten Island, Joey was the king of the Christmas displays. Each year he added more lights to his Christmas display and had taken over neighbors properties to extend the display.
Joey, born on March 17, 1938, is survived by his daughter, Julia Cirruzzo Rosenthal and son, Joseph Cirruzzo, Jr. (Angela), grandsons Michael Lasky , Charles Rosenthal, Joseph and Angelo Ciruzzo. He is also survived by his companion of 17 years, Kathy Bradley, and his dog, “Snowgirl.”
-- By Linda Jagiela, LCT contributing writer
Industry Comments, Reactions and Tributes
LCT will update comments and tributes throughout the next few days:
“Joe Cirruzzo dedicated a good part of his career to fighting government regulation on behalf of small chauffeured transportation companies. He always believed that the small guys deserved a bigger voice and through the NLA he became their fiercest advocate. We will all miss Joe’s wealth of experience and knowledge and have all been blessed for the years we got to spend in his presence.” -- Scott Solombrino, NLA board director, CEO of Dav El Chauffeured Transportation Network, Boston
“Joey was a special man in my life. We did business together for many years and I learned so much from him early on in my career. It was always a joy to chat with him or one of the kids, and every once in a while get a good scolding. Joey was also the first to push me into running for the NLA board in 2002. He helped guide my journey on the board and supported me every step of the way. His wisdom and insight was priceless. We did not always agree but I knew where he was coming from and always respected that. His heart was with his family and close friends first for sure. But he gave his all to the industry and what he felt was best and right. I cherish the memories, the laughs and the lessons. I will miss him so much. It won’t be the same looking across the table at NLA board meetings and not seeing Joey there. Prayers and love to his dear friends and family.” — Diane K. Forgy, President, Overland Chauffeured Services Worldwide, NLA President 2010-2013, Kansas City, Mo.
“I'm so very sorry to hear about Joey. He was a great man and I know how close you all were. I'll never forget how great he was to me when I got elected to the board. He spent many hours with me on the phone before the first board meeting preparing me for what to expect. We had a lot of fun together too. He will be greatly missed. Heaven has another angel today. — Sue Jarvis, President, President, Aristocat Transportation Inc., Detroit
"I had the honor of first getting to know Joey when I was smitten with a lovely lady named Linda Moore. As I observed the unique relationship they shared, when I gathered the courage to ask Linda for her hand in marriage, out of respect I had for Joey, I approached him to ask his permission to marry her. His response was typical Joey, “What are you f#@$# nuts, take her off my hands quickly”… That moment in time sealed my fate and we instantly became friends, partners in crime and shared a phenomenal “father/son” relationship. My highlighted times are many but some of the most memorable were our trips hauling his Green Hornet drag racer from Tampa to Jersey. The wisdom, compassion, laughs and tears we shared on those journeys will provide warmth to my heart until my travels bring me once again back into his company. Thank you Joey, and family, for letting me share a part of your life together. Thank you Joey for giving me permission to marry our beautiful Linda." -- Philip Jagiela, executive director, National Limousine Association, former owner of Aries Transportation in Philadelphia, Penn.
“Joe and I go back a long way. In fact, I started out as a driver for him when I got into the business and he became my mentor throughout my career. He always took the time to share with me how the business works, and he never did not take a phone call. He has done amazing things for the industry, and outside of the industry, we became good friends. He was a wonderful person and will be missed.” -- Dave Shaw, Olympus Limo, Tampa, Fla., and NLA board director
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