In March, those family, friends and peers remembered and celebrated the 78-year-old funeral director who served as CEO of Salerno’s Rosedale in Roselle and Galewood Chapels in Chicago.
In the early 1960s, Salerno entered the family business — which was founded more than a century ago by his grandfather Rosario D. Salerno — and became president of the operation in 1995. Under his stewardship, the family in 1994 opened their Roselle facility. George entered the family business at that time after completing law school.
“In our business, work is helping people in a very difficult time, so that’s all my dad was about,” said his son, George Salerno. “It was part of my dad’s DNA.”
Peers in the funeral director community looked up to Salerno.
“Mr. Salerno was an upstanding and diligent funeral director who served his community with quiet dignity and grace,” said Stephen Dawson, past president of the Funeral Directors Services Association of Chicago.
Tony Cappetta, owner of West Suburban Funeral Home in Westmont, called Salerno an “inspirational figure.”
“He was a true gentleman and he was a source of comfort to all the families he served throughout the years,” Cappetta said.
“He was the most humble, charitable guy you’d ever want to meet. He’d do anything to help anyone out,” George Salerno said. “He wanted to enrich people’s lives and make an impact. He never turned his back on anybody.”
Salerno served as chairman of the Roselle Chamber of Commerce and Industry, director of the Bloomingdale Lions Club and trustee of Bloomingdale Township, among many other positions. He was particularly passionate about the Chicagoland Italian American Charitable Organization, serving on the board of directors and several committees over the years.
“Joe was extremely generous with his time and resources,” says CIACO president Bob Urbinati. “He was so supportive of all of our causes, and he was always available to listen and lend much-needed advice.”
Salerno was Italian American in every sense of the word, according to his first cousin, JoAnn Serpico. “He was caring, generous, religious, congenial and family first. He faithfully carried on the Salerno family name in business, and now he has joined all those family members who have gone before him. Those of us remaining will truly miss him.”