Mario’s Pizzeria founder dies

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Mario’s Pizzeria on Cipriani Boulevard in Port of Spain. – ROGER JACOB

BUSINESSMAN, Richard Harford, is dead. The passing of the founder of Mario’s Pizzeria was announced in a statement by his family.

“The Harford family sadly announces the passing of Mr Richard Harford, just 14 days before his 80th birthday. He peacefully passed away at 12.25 in the morning, on March 22, among his family, in the comfort of his bed in Fairways Maraval. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who kept him in their thoughts and prayers. May he rest in eternal peace.”

Harford’s demise was also announced in a company memo to managers and staff of Mario’s penned by company CEO, his son, Roger Harford.

“It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Richard Harford, the esteemed owner and chairman of Mario’s Pizzeria.”

Harford peacefully departed that morning, leaving behind a legacy that will forever resonate within people’s hearts and minds.

“For over 52 years, my father tirelessly poured his soul into growing a business that we all have the privilege to work in today. His unwavering dedication, passion, and visionary leadership have been instrumental in shaping Mario’s into the beloved national institution it is today. As we mourn the loss of a remarkable leader, mentor, and father, I am reminded of the countless lives my father touched with his kindness, wisdom, and generosity. His presence will be deeply missed, but his spirit will continue to guide us as we carry forth his legacy.”

The funeral to honour the life of Richard Harford will be held at 9.30 am on Tuesday, March 26, at The Church of Assumption, Long Circular Road, Maraval. For those unable to attend, the funeral will be live-streamed, with details to be given ahead of the service.

“In recognition of my father’s profound impact on our lives and our business, my family and I have made the decision to close the business on this day. We invite anyone who wishes to pay their respects to join us at the public funeral.”

Roger said at this difficult time, Mario’s personnel should come together as a family to celebrate Harford’s extraordinary life and support one another in their grief.

“Together, we will find strength in our shared memories and in the enduring legacy of a remarkable man. Thank you for your understanding and support during this challenging time. With deepest sympathy, Roger Harford.”

Later on Friday, a public statement was issued on behalf of the company. “Richard Harford, affectionately known as ‘Big Slice,’ embodied the essence of greatness in every aspect of his being.” More than just the founder of Mario’s Pizzeria, he was “a visionary, a beacon of inspiration, and a pillar of strength” in TT’s culinary landscape.

“His larger-than-life persona was matched only by his boundless generosity, unwavering integrity, and profound kindness.”

The statement said that as a pioneering entrepreneur, Harford blazed trails with his relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation. “In 1972, he transformed a humble ice cream shop into the nation’s first local pizza parlour, forever changing the culinary landscape of our beloved country.”

Mario’s quickly became synonymous with quality, authenticity, and local tastes, a testament to Richard’s indomitable spirit and unwavering commitment to perfection.

“Richard’s dedication to his business and employees was unparalleled. His tireless work ethic, coupled with his meticulous attention to detail, ensured that every aspect of Mario’s operation reflected his unwavering standards of excellence.”

Amid formidable challenges, including competition from foreign conglomerates, Harford’s resilience and tenacity took Mario’s to unprecedented heights, with 22 thriving locations across TT plus expansion into Guyana.

“Yet, amidst his remarkable achievements, Richard remained grounded in humility and compassion. He touched countless lives with his boundless generosity, extending his hand to those in need and fostering a sense of belonging within the Mario’s family and the wider community.” Harford’s legacy of kindness and empathy continues to inspire all.

“As we bid farewell to ‘Big Slice,’ we do not mourn the loss of an entrepreneur; we celebrate the enduring legacy of a visionary leader, a beloved mentor, and a cherished friend and a loving father.” His contributions to TT’s culinary heritage and his profound impact on lives will forever be etched in people’s hearts and minds.

“Farewell, dear friend, your spirit lives on in every slice of Mario’s pizza, a testament to your enduring legacy of excellence and compassion.”