Joseph A. Rao
August 19, 1929—April 18, 2023

Joseph A. Rao, 93, of Southington, formerly of Newington, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family on Tuesday, April 18, joining his beloved wife, Santina (Sandy) Morelli. He was a longtime member of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Newington, and more recently of St. Dominic Church in Southington. Born in Lowell, MA, on August 19, 1929, to the late Anthony and Lydia (Caruolo) Rao.

Joe spent his early childhood in Providence, RI, before the family moved to New Britain. There, his father opened a women’s clothing store, Anthony Rao’s, which became an iconic downtown retailer. He graduated from New Britain High School and went on to serve in the U.S. Army, 28th Infantry Division, in Germany during the Korean War. Joe attended the University of Connecticut and then earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business from Niagara University. He joined his father in business at Anthony Rao’s and was active in the New Britain Downtown District redevelopment and Chamber of Commerce.

He was a long-time member of Newington UNICO. It was at Anthony Rao’s that he met Sandy, the love of his life. Joe and Sandy raised their five children in Newington before moving in retirement to Southington. Joe was a member of the National Ski Patrol and was honored as Patroller of the Year while serving at Mount Southington for over a decade; he skied well into his 80s.

He grew up on ice-skates, taking his children often to Mill Pond. He taught all his grandchildren to ski, to skate, to fish, and to draw. Joe enjoyed fishing with his brother-in-law, Fuzzy Failla, and loved to share the fresh-caught bluefish or bass. From fish dinners, homemade pizza, clams, and fresh antipasto at Christmas, Joe lived his passion for food after learning to cook from his mother. He was in his element working at his son Christian’s restaurants in Wallingford and could often be found sampling the day’s specials. Joe’s greatest joy was spending time and giving attention to family and friends.

He leaves his five children, Laura Taricani and Michael of Southington, Maria Rao of Stratford, Anton Rao and Christina (Larson) of Cheshire, Christian Rao of Wallingford, and Daria Mondo and Scott of Southington; cousin Johnny, and Ginny Rao of Kensington; grandchildren and their spouses, Darren and Susan, Adria and Stephen, Brandon and Robyn, Samantha and Dan, Brynna, Michaela, Anthony, and Gabriella; and six great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother, Buddy Rao.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held at the Church of the Holy Spirit (Annunciation Parish), 183 Church Street, Newington. He was laid to rest with military honors in St. Mary Cemetery, New Britain. In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation may be made to the Franciscan Home Care & Hospice Care at