Gino Zavarella
Gino Zavarella Sr. spent over 70 years serving people in the awards industry and beyond. (Image courtesy Gino Zavarella Jr.)

Gino Zavarella Sr. of Gino’s Awards Passes Away


Gino Zavarella Sr., founder of Gino’s Awards, passed away on Monday, March 9th. Survived by his son, Gino Jr. will carry the torch forward in the business. As someone who spent over 70 years in the awards business, Gino Sr. built a livelihood simply out of a desire to build connections with other people, according to his son. 

“The secret to my father’s success was that he loved people,” says Gino Jr. “Whether it was somebody from some big corporation we did work for, or some little church, he loved giving to the people that we served. He was always fair.” 

Gino Sr. was the husband of the late Lillian (nee Pikul); father of Gino Jr.; grandfather of Gino the third (deceased), Nicola, Massimo, Joseph, and Sebastian; son of Nicola and Felicia Zavarella (both deceased); brother of the following deceased: Antonio, Daniel, Anna Lasko, and Roland; and uncle of many. 

Gino’s story begins in 1927 when he was born into a large Italian family in Cleveland, Ohio. Like many families during that time, Gino and his brothers ended up serving in the military during World War II. Following an honorable discharge, he learned the trade of hand engraving as a result of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. 

When he returned to Cleveland after attending the Jeweler’s Training School in Pennsylvania, Gino started an engraving business crafting jobs for other jewelers. He was then recalled to the U.S. Navy as part of the Navy Reserves during the Korean Conflict. Once discharged a second time, he went back to work. 

Over time, Gino’s business grew from Gino’s Jewelry to Gino’s Jewelry and Trophy Manufacturers. It has since grown nationally, employing dozens at his 58,000-square-foot facility in northeast Ohio. 

“(Gino) built Gino’s Awards into one of the most respected awards businesses in the country,” state Steve and Nora Capper, founders of the Recognition Roundtable. Steve tells A&E that he first met Gino many years ago as they would attend the same trade shows and conferences. 

“Gino was one of the most creative and innovated members of our industry — a true leader,” says Capper. “Gino was thinking of how to come up with another idea to improve his business and advance our trade up to the end of his 92 years.”

Gino Zavarella Sr. was laid to rest on March 14, 2020 at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brookpark, Ohio. Click here to digitally sign the guestbook or send flowers.

Fun Fact: According to Gino Jr., his father is the originator of the “Employee of Month” award.

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