‘Beloved by thousands,’ William Penn doorman made people feel special
Jon-Paul Malezi, doorman at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh for 25 years, had a way of making people feel special, and they loved him for that.
If a guest showed up in a rain storm, Malezi was out in the street with an umbrella to make sure nobody got wet. In the winter, he’d be sure to warm up a departing guest’s vehicle.
“The people who know him would all say the same thing,” said James Audi, a developer from Fairfax, Va., who regularly stays at the William Penn on business trips. “He treated people fantastic. He was always courteous and always very attentive. There are a lot of celebrities that come in. This guy never flinched. He was one of these guys who knew a lot of secrets, but he never discussed peoples’ business.”
Malezi died on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, after a battle with a rare liver cancer. He was 49.
Regular hotel guests thought so much of him that during his dying days, they visited him at his home in Mt. Lebanon and called regularly to see how he was doing, according to his family.
“It took me like six hours just to send a picture of him and a few lines about his passing to taxi drivers, limo drivers and clients,” said close friend Carla Runco, 57, a limousine driver. “He was beloved by thousands of people.”
Mary Wolfe, 50, of Franklin Park, a regular with her family for Sunday breakfast at the William Penn, said Malezi once secured a limousine ride for her and her sister after their car was towed from a Downtown street.
“He was always there for us,” Wolfe said. “He made us feel special. He was a special part of our family, and he will be missed.”
James Malezi, 47, of South Fayette described his brother as a bright intellectual and a great father to his three daughters, Gabby, Megan and Molly. Jon-Paul for about six years raised Gabby and Megan alone after divorcing his wife.
“My mother helped, but he was always supportive of everything they ever wanted to do,” James Malezi said. “He just dove all in with the kids in a way that’s inspirational, really.”
Malezi grew up in Dormont and loved Pittsburgh sports. He knew coaches, players and staff from local and visiting teams, his brother said. He could talk sports with anybody and was once quoted in the opening paragraph of a 2009 Sports Illustrated story on the Steelers. The Sports Illustrated story opens with Malezi giving directions to a visitor to Pittsburgh.
“Right here on Second Avenue, when you pass the 10th Street Bridge,” the story quotes Malezi as saying. “That’s where Ben had his motorcycle accident. June 12, 2006. I guess you can call that a ‘Where were you?’ moment. … I was playing golf. We had a foursome. As soon as it happened, all our phones started buzzing.”
Don Martin, 51, of Oakland, worked as a valet alongside Malezi.
“He was the best friend I had,” Martin said. “He was probably the wittiest, funniest person there. He just had a way with guests that nobody can even attempt.”
Eric DeStefano, the hotel’s general manager, said Malezi will be sorely missed by hotel staff and guests alike.
“If I were to ever pick someone to emulate for that position, he was it,” DeStefano said. “If you can imagine the thousands of people who arrived here over the course of time, he remembered them by name. That’s who he was. He was a consummate professional.”
In addition to his brother and daughters, he is survived by his wife, Carly Colantuono, and a brother, Josh. Visitation will be Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Beinhauer Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 2630 West Liberty Ave., Dormont.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .