Obituary of Russell W. Pitoniak
Russell Pitoniak, a humble, caring police officer who devoted his life to family, friends, and community, passed away October 21, just 10 days shy of his 78th birthday.
Russ, as he was known to all, was born in Morecambe, England in 1945, the son of GI Andrew Pitoniak and English native Edna (Holloway) Pitoniak. A year after World War II ended, the family moved to Rome, N.Y. Russ graduated from Rome Free Academy in 1963 and worked several years at Revere Copper & Brass. While at Revere, he met the love of his life, Sylvia Grande, and the two were married on Sept. 5, 1964. They wound up having three children: Tracy, Noel, and Hillary Joy.
On June 1, 1968, Russ began his law enforcement career, joining the Rome Police Department as a patrolman. Four years later, he was promoted to sergeant, and on November 23, 1985, he was named a Lieutenant and Watch Commander – positions he held until he retired from the force in 1994. After leaving the RPD, Russ joined the Oneida Nation Police Department, and worked there for more than a decade, providing security for the newly constructed Turning Stone Resort Casino. Following his retirement from the Oneida Nation, Russ returned to the RPD, where he worked part-time until being diagnosed with multiple myeloma two months ago.
Russ earned a reputation as a modest, compassionate cop and good-will ambassador who would do anything for anyone. In recent years, he thoroughly enjoyed his time working the front desk at Rome City Hall, where he not only provided security, but served as a greeter and information provider, interacting with hundreds of visitors each week.
Russ’s law enforcement career also included stints working security at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Some of his fondest moments were spent with his family during annual summer trips to Brynilsen’s Viking Village on the shores of Fourth Lake in the Adirondacks. Lifetime friendships were formed with other families from throughout New York State during the 43 years Russ and Sylvia vacationed there.
Russ was an avid runner, who participated in numerous road races throughout the area, including the Utica Boilermaker 15K, in which he was honored for the number of preparation and participation miles logged.
He also participated in numerous fundraising events. Among his favorites were the long-distance bicycle Ride for Missing Children and the One Square Mile For Hope, which garnered Guinness Book of World Records’ status for the most kayaks gathered in one spot at one time and raised tens of thousands of dollars for breast cancer research. He and his family also prepared and delivered Thanksgiving meals numerous times on behalf of the Rome Rescue Mission.
Russ leaves behind a loving family, including his bride of 59 years, Sylvia Pitoniak; children Tracy (Jackie) Pitoniak, Noel Pitoniak, and Hillary Joy Pitoniak (John Palumbo); grandchildren Christopher, Cody, Colton, Corey, Justin, Kayla and Taylor; and brother Scott (Beth) Pitoniak. Russ was predeceased by his parents (Andrew in 1971 and Edna in 1996), and by a younger brother, Wayne, who died at age 61 in 2011.
A celebration of Russ’s life will be held this Sunday (October 29) at the Barry Funeral Home, 807 Chestnut St., Rome. Calling hours will be from 1-4 p.m., with a brief ceremony to follow.
In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome donations in Russ’s memory to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the Phillip S. McDonald Police Benevolent Association.To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Russell Pitoniak, please visit our Tree Store