Ferrara Pan Candy is 104 years old. For 65 of those 104 years, Nello Ferrara has been on the job, having joined the family business after distinguished service in World War II. Mr. Ferrara died this week at 93 but he leaves behind a legacy built on pretty simple American precepts: family, faith and business innovation.
Alana Ferrara, a granddaughter, talked to us Monday about her grandfather at the stove of his home in River Forest, cooking Sunday dinner for the extended family. Spaghetti, meatballs, gravy, sausage you won’t be surprised to learn. She talked about his love for Marilyn, his wife of 63 years, and the songs he’d sing to her. She talked to us about his faith, from his earliest days on Taylor Street in Little Italy to his being honored by Pope John XXIII when he was made a Knight of Malta.
For Forest Parkers who live in the shadow, and within the smell zone, of Ferrara Pan – what are they making today? Ah, Atomic Fireballs – Nello Ferrara was a quiet presence. The plant moved to the banks of the Ike in 1959 and has played a central, though understated, role ever since.
Mr. Ferrara is credited with building iconic brands – among them Lemonheads, Red Hots – for which the company is now nationally known. Locally, the firm was always involved in community-building with generous monetary support of all manner of events and projects. Not every town has the blessing of a major corporation that so respected its roots.
Ferrara Pan continues as a family-owned company. It is the passing on to new generations that tests the strengths and the tensions of any family. Sal Ferrara II is the current generational leader facing the challenges and building on the opportunities.
Forest Park offers its respects to the family.