in memoriam

In Memory of Al Pettenati

November 4, 2023


Alfred John Pettenati, Manager of the World Trade Center Observation Deck from 1979 to 1994, died peacefully on November 4 in Bethesda, Maryland, where he had lived since 2021. The cause of death was congestive heart failure.

Alfred was born on June 15, 1929, in the Bronx, the youngest of four children in a close knit Italian-American family. Throughout his life, he often recalled childhood memories with his dear siblings Louise, John, and Rosalinda, their parents, Maria and Girolamo, their dog, Tootsie and rabbit, Bunny.

Alfred loved baseball as a young boy and worked in Yankee Stadium as a peanut vendor when he was a teenager. He graduated from a Bronx vocational school in 1947. In 1951, Alfred became a Private First Class in the U.S. Army. During the Korean War, he was stationed in France. Alfred was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after two years and returned to the Bronx. He began working for the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, where he remained for his entire career.

On April 24, 1955, Alfred married Nella Domenica Cavazzini, also a child of Italian immigrants born in New York City. Both of their fathers were chefs in New York City hotel restaurants and other venues. Nella was a talented dress designer who had graduated from Pratt Institute in 1949. She became a stay-at-home mother to raise their three children, Jeanne, Al, and Leslie, but continued her creative pursuits as an extraordinary seamstress and painter.

Alfred’s organizational skills and people skills were recognized early on, and he became instrumental as the liaison between the Port Authority and prospective tenants moving into office space at the newly built World Trade Center during the 1970s. He served as a Building Manager, then was promoted to Coordinator of Special Events at the World Trade Center, before accepting his dream job as Manager of the Observation Deck in 1979, where he worked until he retired. Prior to being promoted to Manager of the Observation Deck, Alfred earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Adelphi College.

During his tenure at the Port Authority, Alfred received several distinguished service commendations. He also received a World Trade Center Award for Individual Acts of Valor for assisting a wheelchair bound colleague down dozens of flights of stairs to safety after the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing. The 6 victims of the bombing were Alfred’s friends and former coworkers from the Building Services department. In the aftermath, he worked to help World Trade Center operations get up and running.

Always athletic, Alfred played shortstop for the Port Authority softball league. He also learned to ice skate to assist coaching Al’s high school hockey team. Alfred and his family attended church at Saint Anne’s in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and he was a member of the Knights of Columbus. Alfred enjoyed solving complicated crossword puzzles, spending time with family and Port Authority friends, cooking Italian dishes, especially those he had watched his mother prepare, traveling, and watching sports. One of his favorite activities was spending time with Pepper, the family’s miniature schnauzer, and Hunter, the golden Labrador Retriever that had belonged to his son Al and daughter-in-law, Randi.

When Alfred retired in 1994, he became an active member of the Skal club, an international organization of tourism professionals promoting friendship and global tourism. He and Nella were fortunate to take river cruises in Europe and travel throughout the United States for many years. He also traveled with the Skal club to Bangkok, Thailand. Alfred volunteered with the New Jersey Elections board in Bergen County and kept in close touch with Port Authority friends. Each spring, Alfred continued to meet with them in lower Manhattan to celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, with specially prepared Italian foods.

Alfred and Nella traveled with their children and grandchildren and spent time in Maryland with their grandchildren Haley and Matthew. They made special visits each fall for Grandparents Day at their elementary school. Alfred enjoyed playing golf with family and friends and apple picking in New York each year with his sister Rosalinda, and his devoted nieces and nephews and their children.

Alfred is survived by Jeanne, Al and Leslie, his son-in-law Alan Maness, and grandchildren Haley and Matthew Maness. Nella died in June 1990. Alfred was also predeceased by his daughter-in-law Randi Pettenati in 1991.

A gathering to celebrate Alfred and Nella will be held in 2024. Those interested in making a donation in Al’s memory are asked to consider the American Heart Association and Luckydog Animal Rescue.