RIVER FOREST, Ill. -- Candy company executive Nello Ferrara lived a sweet life.
The man who brought the world Lemonheads and Atomic Fire Balls routinely serenaded the restaurants where he dined and held mandatory family dinners every Sunday, said his son, Salvatore Ferrara.
Nello Ferrara died Friday at his home in the Chicago suburb of River Forest surrounded by his family. He was 93.
The Forest Park-based Ferrara Pan company was started in 1908, and Nello Ferrara took it over from his father decades ago. The company, which also makes Red Hots and Boston Baked Beans, produces 1 million pound of candy a day, Salvatore Ferrara said.
Ferrara, the company's current president and CEO, said his birth inspired his father to invent the Lemonhead candy.
"He always claimed that when I was born, that I came out of my mother sideways ... and my head was shaped like a lemon," he said.
The Atomic Fire Ball was invented after Nello Ferrara's time in Japan during World War II.
Nello Ferrara also loved to sing, and did so every day – especially when the family dined out, his son said.
"He would be walking around the restaurant, table to table, singing like you wouldn't believe," he said. "He was an impulsive singer."
His repertoire included Italian love songs and his favorite, "Wind Beneath My Wings". Once, Ferrara met Frank Sinatra at a charity event, and when the two ran into each other a year later, Ferrara tried to out-sing him.
"My dad insisted that he had a better voice, he just wasn't as good looking," Salvatore Ferrara said.
He said he was overwhelmed by the turnout at his father's funeral, which filled a church that seats 1,000 people.
Nello Ferrara is survived by his wife of 63 years, Marilyn, his son and two daughters, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.