Obit: Joe Famolare, 82

Joe Famolare, founder of Famolare Shoes, died July 11 after a battle with cancer. He was 82.

A third-generation shoemaker, Famolare in 1969 formed his company, which earned considerable recognition for its four-wave sole platform. Prior to that, Famolare held positions at Capezio and Marx & Newman.

“He loved life and was very attached to his family,” said Arnold Dunn, a former colleague at Marx & Newman. “Joe loved to work, and if he was involved in something, he would give it his best.”

In 1988, Famolare briefly tried retirement before starting a new venture in Brattleboro, Vt. The businessman founded the Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center, a renovated dairy farm that houses offices, classrooms and meeting rooms.

The organization, which is still active, specializes in helping small businesses and nonprofit ventures in the core areas of education, agriculture, entrepreneurship and the environment.

“He could never retire because dad was an entrepreneur,” said daughter Bibiana Famolare Heymann.

Daughter Hilary Famolare added that her father often would give lectures to students at the local high school. “He was constantly teaching people and he loved to explain to kids how to break out and chase their dreams,” she said.

Still, Famolare’s contributions to footwear were equally significant, earning him recognition throughout a lengthy career. In 1973, the executive received the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for his company’s molded clog. And in 1995, he was inducted into the Footwear News Hall of Fame.

“Joe created a product that everyone wanted to have,” FFANY President Joe Moore said of Famolare’s four-wave platforms. “He was a very creative type of person, one who had an independent, entrepreneurial spirit about him.”

Ex-FFANY President and former Nina EVP Dick Jacobson lauded Famolare as an innovator in the comfort market. 

“He was a pioneer in terms of combining fashion and comfort,” he said. Jacobson even recalled offering Famolare a job at Nina before Famolare decided to start his own company. “Joe was a great talent and a great addition to the shoe industry.”

Famolare is survived by his wife, Sandra, daughters Bibiana and Hilary, and four grandchildren.

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