Sal Ferrara
Sal Ferrara, who passed away Thursday after a battling esophageal cancer. 

Salvatore “Sal” Ferrara II was the kind of man who loved ones describe as “larger than life,” the “epitome of leadership,” and “a very special person that could light up any room.”

An “icon” in the candy industry, his absence is bound to be felt. Ferrara died Thursday after battling esophageal cancer. He was 63.

While he spent most of his career at the family-owned Ferrara Pan Candy Co., which merged with Farley’s & Sathers in 2013 to create Ferrara Candy, he most recently was with the Haribo Candy Co. In his new role, he was tasked with building the German company’s first U.S. plant.

A 47-year veteran of the confectionery industry, Ferrara joined the family business at Ferrara Pan Candy Co. as general partner and worked in various capacities at  the company. In 1986 was named president and coo and propelled the company into one of the largest family-owned and operated confectionery companies in the United States.

In addition to supervising several major expansions at the company’s Forest Park facility, Ferrara was instrumental in securing licensing agreements for a broad range of successful new product launches, ranging from a Jurassic Park movie tie-in to co-branding agreements with Sun-Maid and Planters. He also orchestrated several key acquisitions, adding T.J.Lipton’s Fruit Snack Division in 1991 and Chiodo Candy Co. in 1985.  In 1998, Ferrara Pan purchased the trademark and product line of the German Black Forest and Mellos gummi candies. 

Ferrara was also very actively involved in the confectionery industry, having served on the National Confectionery Association (NCA)’s board beginning in 1990 and subsequently holding the chairman’s position for several years.

He also participated in the American Association of Candy Technologists since 1975 and was an inaugural member of the NCA’s All Candy Expo (now the Sweets & Snacks Expo) committee.

In 2002, Ferrara received Candy Industry’s Kettle Award, according him the same honor his father Mello received in 1975. The two candy makers are the only father-and-son team recipients in the annals of the award’s prestigious 70-year history. 

When asked in an interview about his son receiving the Kettle Award at the time, Nello responded, “He does almost everything better than me. Well, almost everything, he doesn’t sing.”

Industry colleagues, co-workers, friends and family, however, have no trouble in singing Sal’s praises. 

“Sal Ferrara II, one of the smartest businessmen I have ever met, one of the most generous friends I have ever had and the very definition of "a family man,’” writes Anna Weaver & Family, of New Lenox, Ill., in the comments on his official obituary. “He was the epitome of leadership and had the utmost appreciation and respect for the employees who dedicated their lives to the Ferrara Pan Candy Co. I will forever compare future employers to Sal and they will all come up short... I will miss him dearly.”

She was just one of Sal’s loved ones who fondly remembered Sal in the condolences section of his obituary.

“We'll certainly miss Sal's "larger than life" aura and I personally will never forget him and all the great things he's accomplished,” writes Fred Hintlian, president of Varick Enterprises of Winchester, Mass. “Sal was certainly in a league of extraordinary individuals, having positively affected so many peoples’ lives through his generosity, industry involvement and love of life. Although he was taken from us at such an early age, he will continue to be an inspiration to us all.”

And Marc Rosenberg, of Deerfield, Ill., says he was always thrilled to partner with Sal in the industry.

“Sal was a kind man who I was thrilled to partner with several times putting candy and toys together to make the kids smile,” he writes. “For years at Tiger Electronics, people would sneak into my office to steal Lemonheads, Atomic Fireballs and Jawbreakers all courtesy of Sal [at Ferrara Pan]. To a life sweetly lived, wishing your family peace and happy memories.”

Jim Nicketta & Family, of Western Spring, Ill. said their thoughts and prayers are with the Ferrara family.

“Sal was a very special person that could light up any room and we are grateful for the times that we had with him,” they write on the condolences page. “We will all miss Sal and his ability to make anyone feel like part of the whole Ferrara Family!”

The funeral services will be held today, Monday, Dec. 1. The visitation is at the Holy Family Church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd.Chicago, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Mass of Christian Burial is being held at the Holy Family Church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd.Chicago, at 3 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Sal's honor to the Salvatore Ferrara II Esophageal Cancer Research Fund at the University of Chicago  to help find a cure for this terrible disease.

Ferrara’s father Nello passed Feb. 2, 2012 at 93 years old. The two had worked together to build the Ferrara Pan Candy Co.

Ferrara was also the beloved son of the late Marilyn Ferrara. And, he was the husband of Andrea, née Gioe, loving father of Nello II (Laura), Alana Ferrara , Lauren (Matthew) Houder, the late Bobby (Jennifer) and Erik (Kristy) Hall.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with you all. Sal certainly was a Icon in the candy [and] snack business,” writes Tom and Lex Buddig, of  Hinsdale, Ill.. “He will be missed.”

Read more: Salve ad aeternam, Sal: Farewell forever Salvatore Ferrara