By anguillian January 8, 2018 10:57 Updated


Anguilla is going into the 2017-2018 tourism season late as a result of the devastation by Hurricane Irma which has delayed the reopening of the larger hotel properties. While this is a sad matter, there is also the sadness that Anguilla’s biggest hotel investor, Mr. Leandro (Lee) P. Rizzuto, is no longer alive to continue his personal involvement in the island’s upmarket tourism sector.

Mr. Rizzuto, owner of CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa and The Reef by CuisinArt, died in the United States on December 3. His passing was lamented at a Memorial Service held in his honour on December 21 at St. Gerard’s Roman Catholic Church at Wallblake, Anguilla, where he was a contributor and a regular worshipper when on the island.

The officiating Priest, Father Paul Czoch, praised Mr. Rizzuto for his financial contributions to the Church, the naming of the adjoining Chapel honour of Mother Theresa as well as the donation of a bronze statue of her to the Church. He said that a special mass was celebrated for the late Mr. Rizzuto during which it was hard for him to consentrate on the event. He spoke about spiritual aspects of the hotel investor’s life, his interest in St. Gerard’s and in Anguilla generally.

His comments were further amplified by Mrs. Jillian Carty-Sheehy in a statement she delivered on behalf of St. Gerard’s. “Mr. Rizzuto loved the family at St. Gerard’s and, in particular, the youth whom he showered with generous Christmas gifts every year which was so much appreciated,” she said in part. She disclosed that among his contributions, Mr. Rizzuto “had quietly and so generously paid off the debt for the completion of this Church.”

She further stated: “Those of us who knew him, know about his love for what he did at CuisinArt. He loved great food and was proud of his restaurants at the hotel. We all know that he was a very successful and well-travelled businessman, but it is his spiritual life that cannot be overlooked or forgotten. He was a man of great faith and devout in his beliefs…and loved this little island of Anguilla.”

At the time of the Memorial Service, Chief Minister and Minister of Tourism, Victor Banks, was off island but sent a recorded address which was played at the Church. Describing him as “a good man”, Mr. Banks said: “Mr. Rizzuto endeared himself to the people of Anguilla through his generosity and his willingness to maintain his investments in Anguilla even during the most challenging situations.

“Beyond the employer/employee relationship, he was always concerned about the personal development of staff and therefore put in place benefit schemes as well as opportunities for education and training. To advance that agenda he used his personal contacts with Johnson & Wales University to provide training in the hospitality industry because, as a matter of policy, he firmly believed that his investment was primarily to create opportunities for the Anguillian community.”

In another section of his address, Chief Minster Banks stated: “With the recent passing of Hurricane Irma which severely damaged his properties here, Lee already committed to rebuilding and reopening his resorts to the tune of some US$40 million. In that process he also ensured that adequate provision was made for staff that would be impacted. He loved his staff and regarded them as family. He had no intention of walking away. It was reasonable to get the impression that Anguilla and his investments in Anguilla were dearest to his heart.”

In the concluding paragraphs of his tribute to Mr. Rizzuto, Mr. Banks said: “On behalf of the Government and people of Anguilla, as well as on my own behalf and that of my family, I extend sincere condolences to his entire family circle; loved ones; and close associates all across the globe whose lives he has touched in so many ways.

“Mr. Rizzuto – Lee – will be sorely missed! His contributions to Anguilla’s development, as well as his kindness and caring concern for our people, will be remembered and appreciated for many years, and many generations to come.”

In addition to Ms. Patricia Bygrave, who assists with CuisinArt’s real estate section, and who moderated the Memorial Service, two other staff members of CuisinArt also participated in the event. They were the Director of Human Resources, Ms. Carleen Gumbs, who delivered the Scripture reading; and the Food & Beverage Director, Mr. Sean Richard, who paid tribute to Mr. Rizzuto recalling his motivation, encouragement, and caring interest in the staff.

Bankie Banx, a neighbour of Mr. Rizzuto’s hotel business, gave a musical rendition as a tribute to him.
The Eulogy was presented by CuisinArt’s Vice President and General Manager, Mr. Stephane Zaharia, who, overcome by emotion said it was a difficult moment for him. Following is the main section of his presentation:

“After building a successful corporation he [Mr. Rizzuto] founded with his parents, he discovered Anguilla while on a vacation when he visited for a day. In that short space of time he fell in love with Anguilla. Just as he had put all his efforts into creating Conair, he went into the creation of the Resort with the same passion and commitment. Mr. Rizzuto always looked to the future when it came to Anguilla and since opening, in 1999, his vision grew from the expansion of the Venus Spa, building private villas to the purchase of the Golf Course, to increasing dining venues, to the creation of our solar farm, and to the addition of our newest property, The Reef by CuisinArt, that opened just last November. When the Reef was recently named the top resort in Anguilla, number two in the Caribbean, by Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards, he was overjoyed and so proud with this extraordinary accolade.
“It should never be forgotten that at the heart of everything Mr. Rizzuto has accomplished in Anguilla, is his love for and devotion to the people, his Anguilla family that transcended to creating our Resort. His personal bond with our employees included providing assistance if their families needed to get treatment at the best hospitals; or assistance with tuition for their children; or, most recently following Hurricane Irma, personally committing, while in frail condition, to rebuild better and stronger for the future of staff, their families and for Anguilla. This was one of the final acts. His compassion and generosity knew no limits.”
Mr. Zahara continued: “I had the honour of working with Mr. Rizzuto for almost 13 years. I can honestly say that during those years there was not a day that went by when I did not learn something new about the business or about myself.

“During our many years of working together, Mr. Rizzuto continuously inspired me to work harder, work smarter and be creative on ways to surprise and delight our customers. When I found myself challenged, I always took the time to stop and consider: ‘What would Mr. Rizzuto do or think’ – and if I needed more insight, I would call him. He always answered my calls no matter where he was and we would talk through the situation. He may have made suggestions or offered hints, but never gave me the resolution. He encouraged me to think on my own and come to a decision on the matter at hand.

“He taught me to demand the best of myself; to encourage greatness from our resort family; to reach for the unreachable; to love with respect; and to embrace life with kindness and passion.”

By anguillian January 8, 2018 10:57 Updated


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