Most folks likely knew that Gaetano M. "Guy" Cecchini owned of all of those McDonald's restaurants. At one-time he operated 17 in Stark County, with hundreds of local residents working for him. For many in the community, Cecchini was the person who gave them their first job.
He earned a reputation as a savvy businessman and a philanthropist who gave back to the community that became his home. Cecchini, 83, died Monday October 5 2020 in Florida, where he was being treated for acute leukemia at Moffitt Cancer Center.
Gaetano "Guy" Cecchini was born in central Italy. His parents were visiting relatives in the country as World War II erupted and were unable to leave until the war ended. When they returned to the United States, their son remained with family and completed his education in Italy.
It wasn't until 1957 that Cecchini joined his parents, going to work at Cicchini Fuel & Coal, a business his father started in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He took over the family business when his father retired in 1960, then sold it in 1967.
That's when Cecchini was introduced to McDonald's. He moved to Ohio and began working at a McDonald's in Warren. From there, he attended the restaurant chain's Hamburger University, along with Ed Rensi, who went on to become president and chief executive officer of McDonald's USA.
In 1972, Cecchini bought his first McDonald's in Columbus. Three years later, he sold two Columbus restaurants and bought five locations in Stark County. He gradually expanded his restaurant business and invested in real estate.
In 2008, Cecchini paid $1.4 million for more than 300 acres that had been the Stark County Farm. He held onto the property and worked with local and state officials to extend Sterilite Avenue SW south and into the property.
That paved the way for the Stark Board of Trade, created by six community foundations, to acquire the land in 2016. Today, the property is home to a new Hendrickson USA facility.
Cecchini was known for opening his restaurants in Massillon and Alliance on Thanksgiving and Christmas to feed the community. He supported the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
He helped Walsh University as sponsor for the Gaetano M. Cecchini Family Health and Wellness Complex. He also established the Carlo T. Cicchini Memorial Scholarship Fund, in his late son's name, given annually to area McDonald's restaurant employees.
He also helped students through the Stark County Unique Club, a local organization for Italian-American businessmen.