That's the word Mark Grozio used to describe the loss of his good friend and longtime union brother Russ Quarantello, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 59.
In Niagara Falls and across Niagara County, Quarantello was probably best known in his role as business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 237 where he spent more than three decades working his way up to the union's top position after earning his keep as an apprentice, a journeyman, a licensed Master Electrician, a general foreman, an electrical foreman and journeyman electrician.
"It's a devastating loss not only for me and my family but for a lot of other families," said Grozio, who developed a close friendship with Quarantello during their 33 years of working together in the union. "It's like the heartbeat of the IBEW isn't there. We lost the heartbeat."
While he was well-regarded as union leader, Grozio says his friend and colleague was equally committed to charitable causes he held dear. Grozio said it was not uncommon for Quarantello to log 60-plus-hour work weeks during which he always managed to find time to help local community organizations like the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the United Way of Greater Niagara, where he served as a board member.
As a union leader, Grozio said Quarantello always made sure to ask incoming apprentices about their interest in donating their time to charitable causes.
"Russ's biggest thing was to get involved in the community," said Grozio, who served as IBEW's assistant business manager under Quarantello. "His big idea for us as a union was us giving back to the community. He always wanted us as union members to give back and help the people that supported us."
Salim Kinan, a fellow union member who knew Quarantello since he was 13 years old, said Russ meant a lot to the union in light of his experience, knowledge and contacts. He agreed with Grozio that Quarantello's work with various local charitable and community organizations would be greatly missed as well.
"He would do anything for the community," he said.
A Lewiston resident who was born in the Niagara Falls, Quarantello started working three jobs at age 16, eventually finding a position at Viatran on Grand Island and later moving on to a job at The Carborundum Co. in Niagara Falls. In 1983, he was accepted into the union, where he worked his way up to positions of prominence, becoming a member of the executive board and later president.
In addition to his work as a volunteer for various community groups, Quarantello was a devout Catholic and parishioner of St. Peters Roman Catholic Church in Lewiston. He was also active as coach for local sports teams, including those at St. Peter's and soccer teams for PAL and Niagara Pioneer. He was also an avid shooter and a member of the LaSalle Sportsmen's Club.
A lengthy obituary, which appeared in the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, described Quarantello as having had a "deep love for his community and his country," a dedication to his beliefs and a love for making people laugh.
"He was the most kind, generous and honest man; as many can attest," the obituary continued.
"You couldn't ask for a better person," Grozio added. "We need more people like Russell Quarantello in this community."
Funeral services for Quarantello were scheduled for Friday at St. Peter's Church. His family welcomes donations to Russ's favorite charity, the IBEW Local Union No. 237 Sick Committee.