Friends remember Parise; ex-mayor died Sept. 3

NILES — The city lost a legend with the Sept. 3 death of a former mayor of Niles who stayed active in the city decades after his term ended.

Joseph Parise, 87, served one term as an independent before he was voted out in 1991, but he never faded to the sidelines, said Niles City Councilman Stephen Papalas, D at-large. Instead, Parise influenced the leadership styles of others, including himself, Papalas said.

Papalas, who has been on city council for more than 35 years, said Parise had a “tough leadership” style and always stuck to his convictions.

“He came from a business background and that is how he wanted to run the city. That was his style,” Papalas said. “It didn’t always go over well, but it worked. We were always in the black, he was adamant about that, like he was adamant about a 40-hour work week.”

Steve Telego said he was running for a seat on the school board at the same time Parise, a veteran of the Korean War, was running for mayor.

“We respected him, even though at first he was unknown, but we worked on some things that involved the city and the school board and then we became friends,” Telego said. “He was a very solid man — insightful, smart and battle worn. He was always able to provide good counsel. He always kept a finger on what was going on in Niles and always had an interesting comment to make. He was usually right and very sharp-minded.”

Papalas said he remembers one night the two were walking into a council meeting they knew was going to be tough. Labor negotiations were going on and they weren’t going well, the union members were all at the meeting with their families, Papalas said.

“I asked him, ‘What are we going to do?’ and he said ‘We’ll handle it,’ and kept walking up the stairs. And then he started whistling. It was the fight song, from Ohio State University,” Papalas said, laughing.

George Kaniclides, Niles safety director, was on the other side of those negotiations when he was a police officer.

“We had disagreements back then, but as soon as we walked out of the negotiations, he would say, ‘Let’s go get something to eat.’ He never held a grudge and listened to everyone’s views. He wasn’t a pushover, but you could talk to him, reason with him, and he would listen,” Kaniclides said.

Papalas said, “I’ve seen a lot of politicians buckle under pressure when they are met with resistance. He never did that. He taught me to think, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ And then to stick to my beliefs, not to sacrifice them to be popular. It doesn’t always lead to friends, but it makes you a stronger leader.”

Papalas said he and Parise were longtime, personal friends and his death has been painful.

“He is irreplaceable, a legend. He was like a father to me,” Papalas said.

Papalas said Parise’s children are a testament to what kind of man he was, and said his daughter, Jo Marie Parise, deserves recognition for moving home to care for him.

As sad as the loss is, Telego said he is sure Parise is happy to be reunited with his wife, Josephine.

Parise served on many boards, including the Trumbull County Soil and Water Conservation District, Niles Community Improvement Corp., Niles Beatification Committee, Niles Chamber of Commerce, Niles Red Cross and John F. Kennedy High School parents association.

He was personnel and safety supervisor for National Gypsum for 18 years and personnel and safety director for Wean United for 22 years.