Remembering Josephine ‘Josie’ Torrillo: Tremendous Grace
For many years, Josephine “Josie” Torrillo worked quietly and gracefully behind the scenes of Syracuse University’s major events and celebrations. At the University’s annual Commencements, she handled such dignitaries as former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joseph Biden L’68 and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani. In 2008, she was a key member of the planning team that handled the logistics for the Syracuse premiere of the movie “The Express.”
“She had the calmest presence, even in the midst of high-pressure situations,” says Susan Germain, retired director of special events at Syracuse University. “And she had your back 110 percent.”
Torrillo, of Syracuse, died on Aug. 6. She was 68.
She made history within her close-knit family as the first woman in her family to go to college. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Le Moyne College, and worked as an office manager for her family’s business, Darling Ice Cream, and for the freight firm Nippon Express. After starting her family, she joined E-Z Distributors Inc. as a sales associate and quickly rose to a top-level manager.
Torillo’s career at Syracuse University spanned 22 years, first in the University’s film and video distribution center and then in the Office of Special Events, from where she retired in 2014 as assistant director.
“Josie was a beautiful person inside and out,” says Larry Martin, the University’s retired vice president of program development. “She was down-to-earth, friendly and treated everyone with dignity and respect.”
The Office of Program Development plans the triennial Coming Back Together (CBT) reunion for African American and Latino alumni, and Torrillo was a key member of the planning team for many years. “She took our gala dinner dance to a whole new level,” Martin says.
“Many don’t realize the work that happens behind the scenes at large events and celebrations, such as dealing with the logistics of a large venue and managing different personalities,” says Martin. “Josie handled everything she did with tremendous grace.”
Germain says Torrillo possessed an amazing attention to detail, something that is crucial in event planning. And she left an indelible impression on the students she worked with—both those who worked in her office and those she came in contact with through events. She was a tremendous ambassador for Syracuse University, and perhaps more importantly, she was a mom.
Torrillo is survived by her husband of 44 years, Ralph A. Torrillo Sr.; her children, Toni Marie Zee (Adam), Sally Fisher (Tyrone); Ralph A. Torrillo Jr. (Kimily); Joseph Carl Torrillo and Carla Rae Torrillo; seven grandchildren; brothers Anthony and Joseph Scro; sister Mary Rose Zambri, and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Her funeral service will be held Saturday, Aug. 12, at 10:30 a.m. at River of Life Family Church, 750 James Street, Syracuse.