Don Puza, longtime Southampton market owner, dies at 82

  • People left flowers at the door of Pure Foods Market in memory of Don Puza, longtime owner of the store on College Highway in Southampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Don Puza is shown in undated family photos, above and below. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

  • —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2021 7:47:37 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — One year during the holiday season, Don Puza, owner of Puza’s Pure Food Market, learned that a customer had no family members to help her put up Christmas decorations. Puza immediately stepped up to help, said Vicky Puza-Allen, his daughter.

“My father came home and said, ‘We’re all going over to her house and putting her Christmas decorations up,” Puza-Allen recalled.

This behavior was typical for Puza, who ran the grocery store on College Highway for decades.

“Somebody would call and couldn’t come to the store, he would drop groceries off for them,” Puza-Allen added. “There was a veteran in the car who couldn’t get out of his car because of his injury, he (Puza) would shop in the store and bring it out for him.”

Puza, a longtime Southampton resident, died Friday at 82 after a short illness with cancer.

On Monday, family and friends remembered Puza for his generosity and far-reaching support in the area. Puza’s motto was “Family first,” Puza-Allen said, but her father’s giving nature extended to customers and the surrounding community.

Puza’s son, Josh Puza of Chesterfield, said Don Puza was not just his father but his best friend.

“He was the most selfless, caring, compassionate person,” Puza said. “It was always about everybody else in the family and community. He came last.”

Other benefactors of Puza’s generosity were the “hundreds of local organizations” he donated to, Puza-Allen said.

A favorite among these organizations was the Southampton Youth Association, a nonprofit that provides sports and other recreational activities to local youth outside of school. Puza would sponsor sports teams and also contributed to scholarship funds for local high school seniors.

Puza was a former special police officer with the Southampton Police Department, and continued to support the town’s police and fire departments in the decades following his departure, Puza-Allen said.

In 1999, Southampton named him Citizen of the Year.

Dondi Owens, Puza’s son-in-law, said that his father-in-law embodied the word “giver.”

“That’s him in a nutshell,” Owens said. “Just the most giving, unselfish person you could know. He was a giant, and he’s going to be missed enormously for a long, long time.”

Puza is survived by his wife of 55 years, Theresa Puza; his four children; seven grandchildren; and many other family members and friends.

A Southampton fixture

Don Puza’s father opened Pure Food Market on Main Street in Holyoke in 1947. The store moved to Westfield in 1949, then its current location at 31 College Highway in 1964. Puza, who was born in Holyoke and grew up in Westfield, moved to Southampton with the store that year.

Those who worked for Puza were also welcomed into the family, said Nicole Buzzee, a Westhampton resident who worked for Puza for just over seven years.

“They were just so loving and caring, and literally did everything and anything for other people and never expecting anything back,” Buzzee said of the Puzas.

“You don’t find that anywhere in anybody, really,” she added.

Puza’s energy was infectious, Buzzee said, noting that “no matter the day that you had, when you saw him, you would have a good day.”

Josh Puza noted that his father also strived to support local farmers through his business, recalling, “he was always trying to buy from the local guys.”

Puza served with the U.S. Air National Guard in the 1960s, and will be buried at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Ceremony in Agawam on Wednesday. A funeral Mass will be held beforehand at 12:15 p.m. at Lady of the Valley Parish in Easthampton.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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