LUIGINO F. PAULUCCILuigino Francesco Paulucci, 93, of Duluth, widely known simply as "Jeno," died Thursday, Nov.
Luigino Francesco Paulucci, 93, of Duluth, widely known simply as "Jeno," died Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011, in his home following a lengthy illness.
Recognized in 2004 by Ernst & Young as "the World's Greatest Entrepreneur over the past 20 years," Jeno's business success is legendary. Founder of more than 70 companies and organizations, with 28 factories and plants employing thousands around the world. He was named United States Employer of the Year in 1972 by the President's Commission on Employment of the Handicapped and the National Association of Manufacturers, after receiving similar honors in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Jeno was enshrined in the Duluth Hall of Fame in 1962.
As a couple, Jeno and Lois endowed the Jeno and Lois Paulucci Family Foundation, dedicated to assisting the poor and elderly; and gifted Trepanier Hall to the Duluth YWCA. Their Duluth civic contributions are recognized by the Lois Paulucci Pavilion in Bayfront Festival Park and Paulucci Hall in the Duluth Arena-Auditorium complex.
Born July 7, 1918, in Aurora, to immigrant parents Ettore, who worked in the iron mines, and Michelina Paulucci, who ran a grocery store in the front room of their residence. Jeno spent his childhood and adolescence in Hibbing where he was a 1935 graduate of Hibbing High School and attended Hibbing Junior College.
Best known as the creator of such brands as Chun King Foods, Jeno's Pizza Rolls, and Michelina's frozen entrees and snacks, Jeno's Horatio Alger award reflects his rags-to-riches ascendancy.
Widely known as a champion of free enterprise, he has worked with seven United States Presidents and continued to be outspoken in the political arena working with every President from Dwight Eisenhower through George H. W. Bush.
Nearly 40 years ago he established the National Italian American Foundation in Washington, D.C., dedicated to serving more than 25 million Italian Americans. He served as its Founding Chairman and Chief Operating Officer for 17 years. Today, the NIAF remains the worldwide model for successful ethnic organizations.
After selling his 20-year-old Chun King Corporation to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1967, he launched a crusade for jobs. Through his North Eastern Minnesota Organization for Economic Education (NEMO Inc.), he was the catalyst behind legislation that brought over three billion dollars and thousands of jobs to the taconite ore industry, which replaced the high grade iron ore which had been depleted.
In central Florida, as Jeno and his family were creating the new city of Heathrow and convincing the American Automobile Association to relocate its world headquarters there, Jeno convinced powers in Washington to fund two new interstate interchanges in the area (I4 at Lake Mary and at Highway 46A) which are now among the busiest in rapidly developing central Florida.
Jeno often stated that his real success was to be able to help his fellow man. In speeches he maintained that "profit is not the only responsibility of business," and strove to prove it with a lifetime of civic activism.
He was instrumental in creating several public facilities in his native Minnesota, including the University of Minnesota Medical School, Solvay Hospice House, the Duluth International Airport Terminal, the Northeast Minnesota Regional Library, and the Duluth Bayfront Festival Park, to name a few. In Florida, he spearheaded negotiations resulting in the acquisition of the closed Sanford Naval Air Station by the city of Sanford for one dollar. The site now hosts the thriving Sanford-Orlando International Airport. He also obtained federal funds for the Port of Sanford.
Since launching Luigino's, Inc., in Duluth in 1990, to produce Michelina's brand entrees, Jeno and Lois have continued an independent "Food for the Needy" program delivering truckloads of 50,000 plus free meals at least once each year through agencies serving the needy in Seminole County, Florida, and Duluth and Hibbing.
His published biography is titled "Jeno - Power of the Peddler."
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ettore and Michelina Paulucci; wife Lois Mae Trepanier Paulucci of Duluth; and his sister, Elizabeth Paulucci (Norman) Helfrich of Sanford, Florida.
Jeno is survived by his son, Michael J. (Joan) Paulucci of Palm Coast, Fla.; daughters Cynthia (Robert) Selton of Longwood, Fla., and Gina J. Paulucci of Wayzata, Minn.; four grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.
A private family service will be held Monday, Nov. 28.
Arrangements are being handled by Dougherty Funeral Home Duluth.
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