Obituary: John Orzechowski / Giant Eagle owner with flair for clothes

Feb. 16, 1957 - Feb, 8, 2014


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John Orzechowski was a study in monochromatic exuberance.

A typical outfit might look something like this: lime green pants, lime green shirt, lime green tie, a lime green belt, lime green wrist band for his watch, and lime green shoes. The colors matched identically.

"Then next time you saw him, he would be all in yellow," said Rick Goclano, a friend and employee management consultant for Mr. Orzechowski's Giant Eagle store in Aliquippa.

His suits were always tailor-made. He had a bright red suit, and a lavender suit, and once surprised his friends and family with a navy blue pinstriped suit, which seemed wrong.

"Look closely," he told Mr. Goclano, "look really closely."

The pinstripes were made of letters -- "Johnny O, Johnny O, Johnny O ... ."

On Monday, Mr. Orzechowski will be buried in his cheeky pinstripes.

The 56-year-old died suddenly in his vacation home in Naples, Fla., on Feb. 8.

"People would literally go to events to see what Johnny O was wearing, and it was always something that you could never imagine," Mr. Goclano said.

Mr. Orzechowski was a colorful staple at community events. While he wasn't an Aliquippa native, the Giant Eagle store owner understood that there's more to running a small-town grocery store than keeping the doors open and the shelves stocked, said his childhood friend, Chuck Rakaczky.

"I think he did business making one friendship at a time," he said. "It's on the golf course or some kind of social event."

Growing up in Mount Oliver, Mr. Orzechowski started his career with a high school job as a stock clerk at Kroger's.

"He worked 40 hours a week, went to high school, played ball, and still had time for everything," said another friend, Jody Walker.

The pay was so attractive back then that Mr. Orzechowski dropped his architecture classes and pursued the grocery business full time, Mr. Walker said.

Mr. Orzechowski worked his way up to manager and, when Kroger's closed, worked for a another supermarket before ending up at the Green Garden Giant Eagle in 1986. In 1990, he bought the store and, not long after that, Mr. Orzechowski hired his former boss as the store manager.

Even at the Giant Eagle, Mr. Orzechowski dressed with a flair.

"Johnny always had an eye for the clothes," Mr. Walker said.

There were reports of him delivering black socks to a golf buddy who wore white with black shoes. "It was just for the chuckle," Mr. Goclano said.

Mr. Orzechowski is survived by his wife, Jo Ann of Wexford, his mother, Helen Orzechowski of Bethel Park, and his sister Janet Femiani.

Family and friends will be received from 1 to 9 p.m. today and Sunday at Jefferson Memorial Funeral Home, 301 Curry Hollow Road, Pleasant Hills. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday at SS. John & Paul Catholic Church in Franklin Park.


Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.


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