Frederick P. "Fred" Catona, a former high school wrestler and a bright entrepreneur who started a company that shipped hoagies overnight to locations across the country - and who once even tried to send hoagies into outer space - died on May 31. He was 70.
His death was related to injuries sustained in an automobile accident, his family said.
Mr. Catona, of Blue Bell, grew up in Delaware County and attended Ridley High School, where he created a scholarship fund for wrestlers, his family said. He went on to graduate from East Stroudsburg University and became a teacher and athletic director at Solomon Schechter Day School and Akiba Hebrew Academy in Radnor.
After his teaching stint, he created A Taste of Philadelphia, partly coming up with the idea when his brother, who lived in California, was homesick for hoagies, said Catona's wife, Linda M. Gaglione. He then shipped hoagies throughout the 1980s. He also shipped soft pretzels, Tastykakes and other foods not readily found beyond Philadelphia.
"Just as I realized that people would pay to get a taste of Philadelphia, [Federal Express founder] Fred Smith discovered overnight mail," Mr. Catona told the Daily News in 1990. "My idea was good, but it couldn't have happened at any other moment but that one."
His celebrity clientele included Frank Sinatra and Dick Clark.
Even trying to expand his reach beyond the planet, Mr. Catona once called NASA and asked for the person in charge of food - and then worked with microbiologists from Widener University for two years to create a hoagie for space. NASA ultimately denied the idea because the ingredients would go bad, but that did not discourage Mr. Catona.
"He was just a big thinker," Gaglione said. "He was really creative."
Mr. Catona's biggest success, Gaglione said, came from other ventures.
He started an advertising agency called Radio Direct Response, which focused solely on radio advertisements, and founded another ad business called Bulldozer Digital.
Mr. Catona launched Priceline.com, using William Shatner as its spokesman, and handled the advertising campaign that launched Freecreditreport.com.
Mr. Catona was "legendary" in the advertising business, said Mitch Russo, of Marlborough, Mass., one of his clients. Mr. Catona created a radio advertising campaign for Russo's website, Steamrocket.com, using Kevin Harrington, an entrepreneur who appeared on the TV show Shark Tank.
Mr. Catona's experience and ability to attract talent to ad campaigns made him "absolutely the perfect person to bring my business to," Russo said Sunday.
Mr. Catona leaves behind his wife, sons Christopher, Matthew and Andrew, three grandchildren, and two brothers. A third brother, Jack, preceded him in death.
Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday from 9 to 10:45 a.m., followed by a Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. at Saint Helena Church at 1489 Dekalb Pike in Blue Bell.