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Business community recalls legacy of former longtime chamber president Bill Guglielmo

Posted 3/3/23

Members of the area’s business community continue to mourn the loss of long-time Rome Area Chamber of Commerce president William K. Guglielmo, who passed away on Thursday, Feb. 23

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Business community recalls legacy of former longtime chamber president Bill Guglielmo


ROME — Members of the area’s business community continue to mourn the loss of long-time Rome Area Chamber of Commerce president William K. Guglielmo, who passed away on Thursday, Feb. 23, only weeks after announcing his retirement after 50 years of service to the community.

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 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 from the University of Buffalo in 1971, where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree in management science.

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 and 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 six-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.

“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. “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 it 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 overused 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.”

John Calabrese, current Chairman of the Board of the Rome chamber said, “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.”


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