Rocco Sidari remembered as dynamic leader for community, family
ALBION – Rocco Sidari, a well-respected leader for the American Legion, insisted on excellence and service for the greater good, many of his friends in the Legion said on Tuesday, when Sidari was laid to rest following his death on Dec. 27 at age 95.
“He knew everybody,” said Ron Ayrault of Holley, who served in the Honor Guard at Sidari’s funeral. “He was well regarded and well respected. He was a book of knowledge when it came to the Legion.”
Sidari is believed to be the longest serving member of the Legion in Albion at 73 years. He served five years in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 1945 with the rank of staff sergeant.
Sidari would serve as commander of the Albion post, and was active in the county, district and state Legion activities.
He was in the Honor Guard until his early 90s, attending military funerals for many of his friends and others who served in the military.
He did some of the thankless tasks of the Legion, filing annual paperwork and keeping reams and reams of paper organized.
“He did a lot of the nitty, gritty,” said Phil Warne, past commander. “He kept everything, everything.”
Joe Gehl, a member of the Legion and Honor Guard, was always impressed that Sidari was impeccable in his appearance. It was another way Sidari wanted to show respect for veterans by looking his best.
“He was very specific,” Gehl said. “He wanted things done right.”
Gehl also knew Sidari from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where Sidari was a faithful usher for Saturday Mass for a half century.
Frank Berger, a long-time Legion member form Medina, attended many Legion conventions with Sidari. Berger said Sidari was the glue that kept the Legion running in Albion.
“He was a heckuva good man,” Berger said on Tuesday. “You could always depend on him.”
Berger visited Sidari in early December when he was at the NYS Veterans Home in Batavia. Sidari was in good spirits and his usual talkative self, Berger said.
Legion members said they believed Sidari’s devotion to veterans stemmed from his service in World War II. Sidari was statewide and one of his duties was receiving the bodies of American soldiers. Warne said Sidari was forever impacted by that role.
His four sons also served in the Marines in the Vietnam War, which made Sidari even more committed to the Legion.
Sidari’s friend and family say he was a natural leader. They talk about his “presence,” how he commanded a room.
At 95, he was a patriarch of the many Sidaris on East State Street. The family has long been committed to community service. Rocco’s passion was the Legion, the Knights of Columbus and St. Joseph’s Church. His brother Frank was a long-time leader in local Boy Scouts and another brother Leonard was the coach for many years of the Sandstone Park youth baseball team.
Rocco didn’t let his many community activities keep him from his family.
“He was an amazing giver,” his granddaughter Stephanie Dinwiddie said. “People loved to be around him.”
Two of his grandsons, Rocky and Dominick Sidari, have followed the Sidari example of community service by being active with the Albion Fire Department.
Rocky Sidari joked it was tough growing on East State Street with so many friends and family close by. “You couldn’t get away with anything.”
His grandfather’s example inspired the family towards service, and also for respect for veterans.
Rocco Sidari was marching in the local parades with the Honor Guard until his late 80s.
He also attended Memorial Day events in Albion up until May 2015.
Memorial Day and Veterans Day – “those were like holy days for him,” Dominick said.
Dominick and Rocky said there grandfather could give “tough love,” letting people fail to build character and learn life lessons.
He also didn’t shy from salty language in making a point, unless his granddaughters were around. Rocco never swore around his granddaughters.
Dinwiddie, his granddaughter, used these words to describe her grandfather: “character, love and generosity of spirit.”