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Community expresses support after learning of Granzella's death
When the Granzella family announced on its Facebook page that the business' co-founder, Jim Granzella, 84, had passed away on Oct. 1, there was an outpouring of support and a sharing of memories from the public.
Tami, Granzella's youngest daughter, recalled one comment on the page that brought her to tears as she read it.
"There is a comment that a former Williams police officer posted (who was there when the original Granzella's building burned down in 2007) that you can see on the Facebook page ..."
That former Williams police officer was Mike Rynearson, who said he was the first officer on scene along with Police Chief James Saso. In the comment, Rynearson describes watching Granzella walk out of the burning building.
"I asked him if everyone made it out. He paused, looked at me and suddenly turned and disappeared back into the building before I could stop him. I went in after him and eventually found him near the deli," Rynearson said in the Facebook post.
"Mr. Granzella said he went back in, 'just to make sure nobody was inside.' ... He returned and frankly risked his life to protect his people."
Comments poured in from across the state as strangers who were patrons of his business, his many friends from across Colusa County and family members recalled stories of a man defined by his resiliency, compassion and tireless work ethic.
A resilient man
Jim and Beverly Granzella opened their small delicatessen in Williams in 1976. They moved their family to Williams, where initially, they had a hard time winning over the locals as one of the only Italian families in the small, rural community.
"When you move to a small community, it takes a while to become a part of it," Beverly Granzella said. "It was hard at first, but I think we're locals now. It took us a while to prove ourselves."
Over the years, the Granzella family and business grew together. Three generations of the family were working within the company by the time it had expanded to include a restaurant, a sports bar and a motel. Then came October 2007 and the fire.
"It almost killed him watching the fire. It was devastating to him," Granzella's oldest daughter, Linda McCarty, said. "Dad, it wasn't just Dad stating his thing was going down, we employed over 135 people at that time."
Granzella promised to rebuild, and with the support of his community and his family, he did just that.
"It was exciting seeing him get to watch it come back," said his youngest daughter, Tami Jenkins.
"It was hard that we burned down, but it was good to see the support," added McCarty. "Until that point I don't think we realized how much we meant to the community."
"I'm very fortunate," said Beverly Granzella. "Four generations are working for us right now. Stacie's (Granzella's granddaughter) oldest is 16, and he is working with us."
A compassionate man
As Granzella's daughters attempted to describe the strength of their parents' relationship, Beverly Granzella interrupted to provide a succinct answer.
"You know what it boiled down to Linda? Where he was strong, I was weak. Where I was strong, he was weak. I couldn't have picked a better one," she said.
One example of that strength came when the couple was shopping on a trip to Oregon. With his wife having shoulder problems, Granzella offered to take her purse from her and tote it around while they shopped.
"He said to me, 'Your purse is too heavy,' and he put it on his shoulder and carried it around like that for me while I shopped. He didn't care what people thought of him," she recalled.
Granzella's eldest thought back to when her father took her mother and all the daughters to Europe. They ended that trip with some shopping in the United Kingdom before heading back to the United States.
"He went along with us and was a good sport, but it took us three taxis to get us to an airport because of our luggage!" McCarty said, laughing. "It cost him a fortune for him to get us and the luggage to the airport. He talked about that for years after."
Years later, Granzella was also able to take a trip with his grandchildren. During that trip, they were able to visit the house where Granzella's father was born in Italy.
"In 2010, we nicknamed it 'The Trip of a Lifetime,'" said Granzella's granddaughter Stacie McCarty, "He was always so proud of us, so proud to show off his family."
In all the years of owning the deli, restaurant, bar and motel, Beverly and her daughters said they could only remember Granzella ever getting angry with a customer and refusing a customer service one time.
"The only time he ever got mad and kicked a customer out was when a guy gave Reuben a hard time," Beverly said, "He told him to get out. That we don't need your business here."
Reuben, who was an employee for more than 20 years and "like family" to Granzella, had been enduring an attack from a racist customer when Granzella intervened.
"The thing with dad was he was a hard worker, but he treated everyone so good," McCarty said of her father, "He wouldn't ask anyone to do anything that he wouldn't do."
"When the deli closed, he would go on his hands and knees and mop the floor himself," his wife added.
"They don't make them like that anymore. He will be missed, that's for sure."