FAIRFIELD, NJ — The Donatiello family of Fairfield unveiled a mural of their late son, Rocco, on Monday night. The 8’ x 4’ mural, painted by Hope Buzzelli, is located on the outside wall of the Manhattan Bagel shop. 

After the death of her brother, who was killed by a drunk driver on June 24, 2018, Nicole Donatiello Agurto expressed her desire to have a mural painted in honor of him to a friend, Emma Armstrong from River Vale. Armstrong suggested Buzzelli.

Buzzelli, age 18, had painted a memorial mural for Cousin’s Pizza in River Vale, and when shown photos of her work from Armstrong, Agurto was impressed. On the recommendation, Agurto called Buzzelli, a student of the New York Academy of Art, and asked her to do the mural.

Sign Up for West Essex Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Buzzelli said the mural was painted “to keep Rocco’s spirit alive.” His portrait is surrounded by his favorite things: the Giants, the Yankees, a golf club and bagels. 

Buzzelli is related to Fairfield residents, Nara, Ralph and Kara Molfetta, who knew Rocco and his family. The Molfetta family was present at the unveiling of the mural.

Armstrong said that she would get her coffee every morning at River Vale’s Manhattan Bagel, which also was owned by Rocco. Armstrong is a crossing guard and lunch aide at Roberge Elementary School, and Rocco’s Manhattan Bagel was part of their lunch program. Coincidence has it that Buzzelli’s sister, Mia, was the first person Rocco or his sister, Nicole, would make lunch for every morning.

Dana Cole of Fairfield said, “Rocco was truly an amazing person. He was one of a kind and was loved by everyone. Whoever knew him, loved him. He was that kind of a person. His beautiful life was cut too short.”

In memory of Rocco, the family established the Rocco Donatiello Foundation. Each year the foundation gives a $2,500 scholarship in his name to a West Essex graduate. The winners have been Dylan Forte from Fairfield, Nick Purro from North Caldwell and Josephine Salluce from Fairfield.

As a fundraiser to support the scholarship and donations to the needy, the foundation holds an annual golf outing at the Knoll Country Club in Boonton. They also sell merchandise of T-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants and more.

The foundation’s mission, according to Agurto, is “to spread awareness about drinking and driving and to give back to the community, as Roc would have done. The foundation partners with a local shelter for women and children. We donate student lunches, truck-loads of dry goods, water, baby wipes, diapers and board games.”

According to the foundation’s brochure, since its founding, the foundation “has received immeasurable support from our local community. We are truly amazed by the amount of love and kindness you have shown to us and our efforts.”

The message on the front of their brochure reads, “The problem with drinking and driving is the mourning after.” 

To find out more about the foundation go to TheRoccoDonatielloFoundation.com, Facebook: Rocco Donatiello Foundation or Instagram: RocDonaFoundation.

To find out more about the artist go to Buzzelli’s Instagram @buzz_artz .