Hundreds Pay Respects to Business, Charity, Family Icon ‘Jay’ DiPietro
Boca Raton, FL – Emidio Armando DiPietro, a legendary South Florida businessman, charitable donor, benefactor and mentor for needy kids, a Korean War veteran, devoted family man and renowned hospitality maven – was known by many other names: ‘Jay’ DiPietro, JD, Mr. D, Dad and his most loving and spot-on sobriquet, Papa Jay.
The distinguished gentleman who dedicated 32 years to transforming Boca West Country Club from a marginal venture to a sparkling gem of world-class country club living, passed away March 6 in the loving comfort of his home.
Under his leadership, Boca West Country Club received many awards for distinguished club and platinum standings and has been ranked number one in the country for private residential country clubs. It became Number One in the state of Florida for all types of clubs, and fifth in the world.
His love affair for Boca West Country Club is where his true legacy began. BWCC continues to promote his legacy with the incredible namesake, Mr. D’s restaurant. This is also where his legendary life of charitable “giving back” became his mission. As a result, thousands of special needs and underprivileged children have become beneficiaries of his loving and caring generosity.
A memorial service held Monday morning at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale Church quickly turned into a family affair. After vocalist Dawn Marie sang “Ave Maria,” prayers were offered by host pastor, James Welch, and Pastor Larry Thompson.
Jay’s kin came to the altar to offer comments about their famed Papa: Richard DiPietro, his brother; John Gandolfo, a cousin; Nikki DiPietro, a niece; Zachary Neeld and Dillion DiPietro, grandsons and Frank DiPietro and Bryan Doughty, two of his sons.
Dawn Marie sang “You Will Never Walk Alone,” preceding the folding of the American Flag by a military honor guard.
A few miles north, and a few hours later, hundreds of friends, colleagues, relatives, admirers, Boca West residents, politicians, athletes and others from Boca’s illuminati gathered in the massive dining room of Boca West Country Club – a place where Jay had spent countless enjoyable hours – to offer homage to the man who first learned to work in the dining trade at age 11, at a restaurant in his native Boston.
Emcee Neil Saffer told the crowd that took time at mid-day to share stories and recollections of the revered hospitality maven that they had gathered “in the house that Jay built.”
Matt Linderman, who succeeded Jay as Boca West’s president, COO and general manager, continued that metaphor. “If Yankee Stadium was the house that Babe Ruth built, then Boca West is the house that DiPietro built.”
He told of losing his own dad when he was 11. “Jay truly became a father figure in my life. While we mourn the loss of Jay, we honor a life well lived. Rest in peace, Papa Jay.”
Tears were profuse at the “celebration of life” that included an opulent buffet, one that would have made Jay proud.
“He made this place the top community of its kind in the world,” said John Temple, past president of Arvida Corp. which developed the country club community before it was renamed Boca West. He noted that the institution was “losing $1 to $2 million a year” until Jay was brought in as its new boss. “The first year, he made $2 million.”
Fighting off tears, Temple offered a “God bless you, Jay,” to his beloved friend.
Particularly touching were comments from Michael McCarthy, CEO of Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach, reading from a letter he sent to Jay shortly before his passing.
“My life wouldn’t be what it is without Jay,” he said as tears welled up. “When a mentor becomes a best friend, it’s magical. This is what you are, Jay, to me.”
Growing up in Boston, the oldest of seven first-generation Americans of Italian lineage, Jay earned his first wages working at the Hampshire House restaurant. As a young man, he proudly served his country in the Korean War where he volunteered to spiff up what had been called “The Mess Hall.”
He began his career as a manager trainee and later as a manager with the Playboy organization, followed by positions at Holiday Inn hotels, Restaurant Associates New York and Boston and Longchamps of Florida. He managed and operated five high-end restaurants in Miami-Dade County before becoming the general manager at the Bal Harbour Yacht & Beach Club, which was his entry into the private club industry.
Keynote speaker at Monday’s “celebration of life,” District 5 Palm Beach County Commissioner Maria Sachs, told how Mr. DiPietro “went down every path in his life with style, whether as a leader of industry or a leader in hospitality.”
“Jay loved to have fun,” she noted. “Today, Jay is still with us. His heart beats in every child whose life he changed.”
Mr. DiPietro founded and chaired the Club Managers of America Seminole Region Chapter Charity Golf Tournament and Gala to benefit underprivileged children. Under his leadership, it raised more than $6.7 million for Special Olympics Palm Beach County, SOS Children’s Village Florida, Place of Hope, Florence Fuller Child Development Center, 4Kids, Unicorn Children’s Foundation, the George Snow Foundation, First Tee of Palm Beach Gardens and Achievement Centers for Children in Delray Beach, to name a few.
Jay’s charitable reach didn’t stop with children. He felt an immense passion for animals in need and wholeheartedly supported his wife, Sharon, in her endeavors as the chairwoman of Tri-County Animal Rescue.
He was a pillar of the community, serving on many charity boards and receiving distinguished community honors –the Rotary Club OPAL Award, Florence Fuller Man with a Caring Heart Award as well as the Man with the Biggest Heart and Lifetime Achievement Award. SOS Children’s Villages named him Florida’s Outstanding Individual of the Year.
Survivors, besides his loving and devoted wife, Sharon and their “furbabies,” Bella and Baer, are his children, Joseph & Silvia DiPietro, Sterling (Todd) & Deana Fisher, Richard & Kimber DiPietro, LeAnna Doughty, Jay & Lora DiPietro, Clay Fisher, Frank & Judi DiPietro, Bryan Doughty, Michael Jay & Cheri DiPietro, and his chosen daughter, Darlene & Billy Wright. He also leaves 24 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, as well as sisters Angela Lombardi (Arthur), Carmella DiPietro and brothers Joseph DiPietro, Richard DiPietro, Bruce Rowe, and Janice DiPietro, surviving spouse of Robert DiPietro. Many nieces and nephews also survive their illustrious uncle.
Jay was preceded in death by his loving parents, Armando and Josephine DiPietro, his brothers, Frank DiPietro, Pasquale (Pat) DiPietro and Robert DiPietro.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to The Boca West Children’s Foundation, PO Box 3070, Boca Raton, FL 33431, telephone number 561.488.6980 or Tri-County Animal Rescue to benefit the Medical Fund, 21287 Boca Rio Road, Boca Raton, FL 33433, telephone number 561.482.8110
By Dale King