Well-liked Frank Rizzo of Area Amusements, the San Diego, California-area, family-run operating company, passed away on May 30 at the age of 98. His son Earl said, “He was one of the good ones. People were always telling me, ‘He’s the nicest guy,’ and that’s exactly what he was.”
Frank was the epitome of old school and worked up until a year ago, finally staying home when he was 97. Earl said Frank suffered a fall that resulted in a broken hip and it wasn’t but just a couple of days later that they lost him. “He was always able to take care of himself and never wanted to be in the way,” he said, adding that he thought his dad decided it was time to go.
RePlay had the pleasure of profiling Frank in a March 2001 article titled “Mr. Fix-It,” (read here: RePlay March 2011 Mr Fix-It Frank Rizzo) detailing his start in the business fixing games in his hometown of Chicago. The son of Sicilian immigrants, Frank got his start in the business by chance.
During his time working for a radio and appliance repair shop, the owner of a bar he frequented asked him if he would fix a bowling machine. He told him he didn’t know anything about fixing that kind of equipment, but the man insisted: “If you can fix radios, you can definitely fix these games,” he recalled.
That led to a partnership with the bar owner and another friend operating bowling machines on the west side of town. When those games were outlawed by the city, the partners left the business and Frank moved the operation to nearby Indiana in the early 1950s with stops also in Illinois.
He’d always had plans to move to California and finally did so in 1979, planning to retire. As they say, you can never leave the coin machine business and after the move, he found himself operating a large street route that rivaled the one he left back in the Midwest.
His family wrote that while he was very hard-working in his business, Frank was a “dedicated family man who put family first” and that he was hard-working in his business.” He encouraged his children to follow their own path. Three, Mark, Earl and Lynn, chose to work the family business (they took over from their dad in 2009) while his other son, Scott, moved to Finland to start an English-speaking school.
They family said the best stories that have been shared about their pop was how generous and supportive he was to everyone and how much he loved his company. They wrote: “At age 90, he could be found atop a 10-foot ladder replacing fluorescent lights in the warehouse.” Sounds like Mr. Fix-It to us!
Frank is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Joanne, passed away in 2002 from lung cancer. RePlay joins his family and friends in wishing him God’s peace. He and his warm smile will certainly be missed.