John Gross Bids Final Farewell

By Tony Farina

“There goes another legend,” commented noted Buffalo defense attorney Joel Daniels when he heard of the passing of Niagara Falls plumbing contractor John Gross who died unexpectedly last Monday, Dec. 19, at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital, at the age of 87.

John Gross served two different jail terms on corruption charges but he was nonetheless a man who lived a life that endeared him to many people, who despite his legal problems people found him to be a generous and beloved man known for his charitable nature and his wide range of loyal friends.

John J. Gross, March 10, 1936 – December 19, 2023

“Simply a great friend, generous to a fault,” said prominent Niagara Falls attorney Jim Roscetti who knew John Gross for 60 years.  “If you had a problem, he was the one to call, and many did.”

“Just one of a kind,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “Everybody knew John Gross and he was never one to say no if you needed help.”

Roger Trevino of Niagara Falls Redevelopment called Gross a friend for 30 years and a very special man who overcame his legal woes to become a shining light for many people who needed help.  “And help them he did,” said Trevino, saying Gross will be missed by many hundreds of people whose lives he touched.

“John made some mistakes but he was a great businessman and the kindest and most generous person I ever knew,” said Mike Gawel, a former Niagara Falls councilman and a CPA.

John Gross

“He was always willing to help those in need or who needed a friend,” said Gawel.  “He was a great friend to my mother Mary and my father Chet for over 60 years.”

Frank Parlato, the owner of the Niagara Falls Reporter, said if you were with John Gross for a cocktail or a dinner, “you never had to reach into your pocket to pay the bill. He was way ahead of you.”

When considering a sentence back in 2012 for John Gross involving mail fraud and tax evasion, Federal Court Judge Richard Arcara mentioned that he had received 60 letters from people urging him to go easy on Gross, with one of the letters referring to Gross as “like a Robin Hood of Niagara Falls.” I know about that letter because I wrote it.

The Judge did go easy on Gross, who eventually served 15 months.  In explaining his decision, Judge Arcara said “he made some money, some of it illegally, but he gives to the poor and I guess that’s where the Robin Hood comes from.”

Gross loved hunting and fishing and while he was officially retired for the last years of his life, he still went to work every day at Gross Plumbing on Niagara St.

Family and friends may pay their final respects to John Gross on Wednesday, Dec. 27, at Lane Funeral Home, 8622 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls, from 2 to 6 p.m.



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