Anthony L. Colaizzo
Founding Father of the Canonsburg July 4th Celebration
The 2019 4th of July Celebration Dedicated in Memory to our Founding Father Anthony L. Colaizzo
During the parade you will notice the committee wearing Tony’s signature bow tie and panama hat in his honor. Please join us by wearing a bow tie or panama hat as a tribute to our celebration’s founding father.
Anthony L. Colaizzo was an Italian-American businessman and politician who died January 12, 2019, in Canonsburg Hospital. Tony was born in Canonsburg on May 31, 1930, the youngest of the seven children of Felix and Consetta Colaizzo of Rosello, Italy. He was preceded in death by brothers Peter, Felix, Anthony, Joseph, Mario, and a sister, Jean Grace.
His political career began when he won the election for Student Council president at Canonsburg High School, eventually graduating in 1949. After high school, Tony served in the Korean War with the Heavy Mortar Company of the 100th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Division, reaching the rank of Sergeant First Class. He received honorable discharge for his service in 1952.
After returning from the war, Tony attended Duquesne University, obtaining degrees from the Palumbo School of Business Administration and from the Donahue Graduate School of Business. Tony was notably never late to class despite having to hitchhike 20 miles to school from his native Canonsburg.
He married LaVerne Leveto on September 4th,1954 during his senior year of college. Upon graduating from Duquesne, Tony took a position at an insurance agency and did income tax work over the next ten years. Next as a member of the Washington County Redevelopment Authority, his responsibilities included the renovation of the Canonsburg Central Business District and Curry Field Redevelopment. He founded the Anthony L. Colaizzo Agency in 1965. The agency provided real estate, insurance, and income tax services to the surrounding community.
Tony devoted his life to service of the Canonsburg and surrounding community. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a long-time volunteer fireman, he was on the Board of Directors of the Canonsburg General Hospital Systems and member of the Canonsburg Hospital Foundation. Tony’s work raising funds for the current location of Canonsburg Hospital typifies his approach to service. As a faithful member of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, he served many years on the parish council.
One of Tony's most notable contributions to the community was Canonsburg's Fourth of July celebration. Tony had the idea for the Fourth of July celebration in 1962 when his oldest child, Tina, was sick with a fever and caused the Colaizzo family to forgo their annual trip to South Park for 4th festivities. Later that day Tony took a walk and noted how lifeless downtown Canonsburg was; there were no decorations, no flags, no celebrations. Tony was inspired to gather a group to discuss an all-day event culminating in fireworks for the following year. He was designated chief-fundraiser and quickly raised $1200 for the parade. A bit short of the initial fundraising goal, the planning committee was worried that they would have to cancel the fireworks display, but Tony passed a bucket through the crowd at the inaugural celebration to gather the rest of the required funds.
Tony attracted floats to the parade by encouraging organizations, especially those representing the numerous nationalities of the Canonsburg, to participate in the parade and compete for prizes and bragging rights. It is estimated that some 15,000 people filled the stadium for fireworks and 30,000 people came to town for some part of the day of celebrations for the first parade in 1963. The parade and Fourth of July celebration would eventually grow into one of the largest in the state of Pennsylvania and celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2013.
Tony was first elected to public office in 1973 as Canonsburg Tax Collector, serving until 1988. He then ran for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, where he served from 1989-1999. While a member of the House of Representatives, Tony was a champion for public education and was endorsed by many education unions. Beyond education, one the first bills that he introduced required landfills to become a public utility to regulate landfill fees. He co-sponsored a bill to approve state funds for affordable housing, and supported legislation that would require consumer contracts to be written in easily understandable terms. For ten years he divided his time between Harrisburg and his own district, where every weekend he would return to visit with his constituents.
Among his accomplishments were aiding the Canonsburg-Houston Joint Authority in obtaining $2.9 million, low-interest loan, obtaining $25,000 in grants for five libraries in his district and obtaining grants for the Bentleyville Volunteer Fire Department and the Washington County Fireman's Association school. He was past president of the Washington County Non-Profit Housing Corporation, which built the Canon House Senior Citizens High Rise, past president of the Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Washington County Housing Authority, a charter member and past president of the Jaycee's, and the Rotary. He was chairman of the Canonsburg Borough Home Rule Study Commission and Vice Chairman of the Central Washington County United Way. In 2000, Tony was appointed mayor of his Borough of Canonsburg, serving in the position until his retirement in 2010.
Among his many awards were the 1965 Outstanding Young Men of America award, the Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Award, and the Canon-McMillan Hall of Honor. Tony's philanthropy was expansive including the establishment of a scholarship for Canon-McMillan graduates at Duquesne University, sponsorship of little league sports, and sponsorship of patient rooms at the new Canonsburg Hospital.
Tony was a devoted family man and is survived by his wife, Laverne Colaizzo, his children, Tina Colaizzo-Anas (Alex), Anthony (Robyn), Mary Dombrowski (Charles) and Louis; grandchildren Alexandros and Eleni Anas, Anthony III and Paul Colaizzo, Charles and Michael Dombrowski, and Joseph, Anna, and Matthew Colaizzo.
Tony was always available to lend a helping hand, to serve God, his family and the public with integrity, passion, and commitment and a spirit of fun and collaboration. And of course, he did all this with his signature bowtie and hat.