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Union Leader Petronella Remembered as Family Man

He was on a journey, and it was about the people along the way, said his uncle in words of remembrance.

Brian A. Petronella was remembered Wednesday as a man who had a passion for giving and devotion to family.

"Brian was my best friend," said his brother, Ronald Petronella.

"He sacrificed everything for my education," said his daughter, Lindsey Petronella.

He was on a journey, and knew it wasn't the destination that counted, said his uncle, also named Ronald Petronella. "It was the people along the way."

Petronella was 54 and president of Westport-based UFCW Local 371 when he collapsed and died in his Norwalk home Friday night.

His funeral was held Wednesday morning at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan.

Petronella's wake Tuesday evening drew scores of people from every walk of life, said his Uncle Ronald. And in a line of mourners that required some to wait 2 1/2 hours to enter the funeral home, "we had men with canes and women carrying babies."

It was a "lovefest," Ronald said, identifying union officers, butchers, meat cutters, grocery clerks, dairy clerks, firefighters, police officers, and laborers among those who waiting to pay their respects.

In addition to his position as the local's president, Petronella was a vice president of his union's international organization, and an executive vice president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

Petronella accomplished his "greatest goal" less than two weeks ago, said Local 371's secretary-treasurer, Thomas A. Wilkinson, during an interview with Patch Sunday, when he organized the bartenders and wait staff at Foxwoods Casino.

It took Petronella 17 years to bring the casino's workers into the union, Wilkinson said.

In March, Petronella negotiated a new contract for employees of Stop & Shop supermarkets, heading off a strike by about 40,000 workers.

"Dad had a passion for giving," his daughter Lindsey told the audience in the church. "I love you daddy with all my heart."

UFCW Local 371 in particular, and the labor movement in general, were Brian's "mission in life," his uncle Ronald told the audience. "Brian's dedication to our members helps us enjoy great pension plans, great health insurance, and many other benefits."

Among those in attendance at the funeral were Rep. Jim Himes, and Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz.

In addition to his daughter Lindsey, Petronella is survived by his wife, Elaine, and his mother, Rosemarie; his daughter Ashley; two sisters, Marilyn Liberatore and her husband, Joseph, and Keri Whitehead and her husband, Ricky; two brothers, Ronald Petronella and his wife, Jan, and John Petronella; nieces and nephews, a great-nephew, and many uncles, aunts and cousins.

Following the funeral, Petronella was buried in St. John's Cemetery on Richards Avenue in Norwalk.

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