Claire Maluso, ‘Lady of the Lights,’ Dies Following Brief Illness

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Claire Maluso, the face of downtown Youngstown for several years, died early Sunday following a brief illness, her son, John, announced on Facebook Wednesday.

Maluso served as Federal Plaza director 1988 to 1998, and returned to the post for a few years beginning in 2003. During that time, she oversaw downtown events, raised funds for downtown lighting, which earned her the nickname, “The Lady of the Lights.”

Her son wrote, “Her passion for everything she did was only surpassed by her love of her family and the city of her birth.” She also was the mother of local entertainer Mary Jo Maluso.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who served on the city school board with Maluso’s husband, John, expressed his condolences to her family Wednesday.

“Claire was definitely a great leader,” Brown said. “She was a driving force to what you see in downtown right now.”

Between her stints as Federal Plaza director, Maluso served as economic development director to former U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant Jr. She worked with the congressman to secure $2.8 million to tear out Federal Plaza – restoring two-way traffic along Federal Street – and $26.8 million to build the downtown convocation center today known as the Covelli Centre.

“I don’t know if anyone has promoted the downtown as much as Claire,” then-Mayor Jay Williams said at a July 14, 2009 event recognizing Maluso’s efforts.

“Celebrate your successes, no matter how small,” Maluso said following one ribbon cutting. The openings of new ventures were indicators that the city was coming back.

The city recognized Maluso at the July 2009 event by dedicating a flower garden near where the holiday tree is erected each year. At Youngstown CityScape’s Grass Roots Gala in 2017, to mark its 20th anniversary, the organization recognized Maluso as one of the “Original Streetscape Trailblazers,” individuals responsible for creating what is now CityScape.

In the private sector, she was director of training and development at the nine stores the former Strouss department store chain had in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys, and was the first female vice president of a well-known men’s clothing store in the Valley, Hartzell’s Rose & Sons. She also owned and ran her own travel agency 12 years. 

Pictured: Claire and John Maluso. (Image from Mary Jo Maluso’s Facebook page).

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.