Donna Grucci-Butler, a former president of the beloved Long Island...

Donna Grucci-Butler, a former president of the beloved Long Island family business she was “born into,” Fireworks by Grucci, and a mother figure to workers and family alike, died June 9 at a Miami hospital following a yearslong battle with ovarian cancer. She was 75. Credit: Fireworks By Grucci

Donna Grucci-Butler, a former president of Long Island's Fireworks by Grucci, had a “motherly” administrative style in the family business she was “born into,” her nephew said.

Grucci-Butler, who retired as president of the Bellport-based pyrotechnic enterprise in 2013, more recently split her time between Patchogue and Fort Lauderdale.

She died June 9 at a hospital in Miami after a yearslong battle with ovarian cancer. She was 75.

His Aunt Donna “had a motherly way about her,” said Phil Grucci of Bellport, the fireworks company's current president and chief executive. “She was the one that any one of the youth would go to for guidance.”

He added: “One of her primary roles in the company, besides being president … was caring for the pyrotechnicians. We had a team of over 300 technicians … She was the ear for the company,” learning about the challenges in the field. 

“What I most appreciated was her patience in answering those challenges and providing feedback to the company on what we had to focus on.”

Phil Grucci succeeded his aunt as president in 2013. Grucci-Butler's brother, Felix Grucci Jr., a former Long Island member of Congress and Brookhaven Town supervisor, also retired that year as the company's executive vice president and chief financial officer. Grucci-Butler had taken over as president after he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000.

In a statement on the company's website when Grucci-Butler announced her retirement after 40 years, she said: “I am ready to pass the baton to our nephew.” She added, “From my teenage years working in the factory with my mother and father making fireworks to becoming President of Fireworks by Grucci has been a grand and glorious life … Together, with my brothers and nephew Phil, we helped make the Grucci name World Renowned.”

The fireworks firm has produced pyrotechnic shows for U.S. presidential inaugurations; the centennial of the Statue of Liberty; and several Olympic Games. The firm holds the Guinness World Record for the “Largest Fireworks Display” ever recorded and “Largest Pyrotechnic Image,” according to its website.

Grucci said his aunt also “had her finger” on selecting the right music to accompany a fireworks display. But she wouldn't go out on the barge where the fireworks were discharged.

“She'll stay on land and call the cues out to the barge to get the show started,” he said. “She was happy to stay on the audience side.”

The Grucci family endured tragedy when, in 1983, an explosion destroyed the company's Bellport factory, killing Phil Grucci's father, James, and a cousin, Donna Gruber.

“When that happened, I assumed the role of my dad in the business and became partners with Donna and my Uncle Felix,” Phil Grucci said, noting he was a college student at the time. “My aunt and uncle were very instrumental in bringing the company back on its feet.”

Grucci-Butler told Newsday in 2012: “It was a good 10 to 11 years to getting back on our feet” after the explosion.

Phil Grucci, the fifth generation of the family to be involved in the fireworks firm with roots dating back 150 years, said: “We had a joke in the family [that] you're born into the business.” While his aunt was involved from her teenage years, when she married, her husband Merlin P. Butler worked for a department store company, W.T. Grant.

“She moved to Delaware with him, Jersey, upstate New York until the mid-'70s,” when he said the couple began working for Fireworks by Grucci. Her husband, who predeceased her in 2022, was executive vice president of marketing and sales. The couple were married in 1969. 

Donna Grucci-Butler grew up in Bellport, graduating from Bellport High School.

Along with her nephew and brother, Grucci-Butler is survived by a son, Jeffrey Butler, of Fort Lauderdale; a daughter, Danielle Butler, also of Fort Lauderdale; a stepdaughter, Racine Johan, of Tampa; and five grandchildren.

A wake is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 27 at Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue. A funeral Mass is scheduled for noon on June 28 at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Patchogue. Burial is to follow at Woodland Cemetery in Bellport.

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