US Air Force

Phillip "Phil" Joseph Canella

May 12, 1929 ~ March 22, 2020 (age 90)


Our beloved father, Phillip "Phil" Joseph Canella, age 90, of Steubenville, Ohio passed away after a long hard-fought battle with dementia on March 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at H.J. Heinz VA Medical Center Hospice. 

Phil was born in Steubenville, Ohio on May 12, 1929, the youngest of seven children, son to the late Maria Squatrita and Natale Canella, Italian immigrants and owners of a grocery/wholesale produce store. Growing up, Phil often worked in the family business helping his dad along with his brothers and sisters. Phil graduated from Catholic Central High School in 1948, attended Ohio State University, and then enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served 4 years which included service in Crash Rescue in both Nashville, Tennessee and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After his honorable discharge, Phil met and soon married Mafalda (Fee) Gentile, and they had two children, Robert Louis and Carolyn Marie. Phil was a devoted father and husband and proud of his family. Phil worked for Weirton Steel Corporation as a steel inspector and also as a salesman for Permanent Cookware, where he gave dinner parties demonstrating how to use the healthy stainless-steel cookware. Phil’s charm and personality allowed him to quickly become a top salesman for Permanent Cookware. 

Phil had a personality all his own. Happy-go-lucky and outgoing, Phil was full of life... energetic, fun-loving, and playful. He was the life of the party, always telling jokes (mostly dirty), creating new friends wherever he went, and flirting (even with the nurses well into his 80’s). Phil was young at heart, forever “29” as he would tell you. He was a giver and had a compassionate spirit. He often helped those less fortunate. At Thanksgiving and during Christmas he would buy turkeys for families in need and often brought food to the homeless. Phil was always ready to step right in and lend a helping hand to anyone in need. A loyal and faithful friend, he would gladly give you the shirt off his back.

Phil was an altar boy for St. Peter’s Church in his youth and developed a strong conviction to his Catholic faith which continued throughout his adulthood. He attended Annunciation Church and St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Phil had many passions, but everyone knows his favorite was dancing! And boy, could he dance. Given the nickname "Philly Travolta,” Phil could disco and jitterbug with the best of them. He loved ballroom dancing, night clubs, and wedding receptions. He once entered a 3-day dance marathon in his 70’s and completed all 3 days with ease! Phil loved to dress to the nines. He had a keen fashion sense, wearing his favorite white dress shirts, ties, and suit jackets even in casual settings. Among his other passions was his love for animals. He loved dogs, especially his German shepherd, Rambo (Slick Houdini), and Rambo loved him just as much. His passions also included: carpentry where he could apply his resourcefulness and imagination (constructing his own home), gardening as he enjoyed giving his delicious tomatoes and squash to family and friends, skiing with yearly trips to Seven Springs, spending time with family in the summer in Ocean City, Maryland and Wildwood, New Jersey, traveling across the country to visit with family in Las Vegas, listening and singing to Dean Martin (Phil was among his biggest fans), riding his bull dozer on his many acres of land, playing poker, enjoying Fee’s Italian home cooked meals, his favorite butternut squash, and D.J.’s barbeque ribs. Yet his greatest love was spending time with family, especially his children and grandchildren whom he absolutely adored!

Phil was preceded in death by his mother, Maria, and father, Natale, brothers: Sarvey Canella, John Canella, and Joseph Canella, sisters: Eileen Tamburro and Rose Butto. Phil loved his family dearly. He is survived by his sister, Pauline Macre, his ex-wife and life-time friend Mafalda (Fee) Canella, son, Robert Canella, and daughter, Carolyn Canella, and his grandchildren: Melissa Rose, Jonathan Louis, and Alyssa Lauren who affectionately called him “Papa Phil.” He is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Tenacious, stubborn, and always optimistic, Phil was a true fighter to the end!  He was so loved and will be forever missed!  Thank you to all the amazing nurses, aides, and staff at the Heinz VA Center Hospice for their loving care and compassion towards Phil in his last months. And a special thank you to Phil’s extraordinary caregivers: Luann Ensminger, Stephanie (Fox) Strope, and Emily (Ensminger) Smith for their love and devotion to our father while in his home. We are forever grateful. 

Phil will be buried at National Cemetery of the Alleghenies. There will be a Celebration of Life for Phil including a gravesite military ceremony and a mass at St. Peter Catholic Church which will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Phil’s honor to a local SPCA, the Fisher House (for Veteran families), the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, or simply put into practice some of the joy for life and love for others that Phil demonstrated. Get out on that dance floor and bust a move!


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Family to do services at later date

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