The next time you enjoy a mouth-puckering box of Lemonheads or a fiery handful of Atomic FireBalls, give a moment of silent thanks to their inventor, Nello Ferrara, who passed away Friday at the age of 93. We’d like to think he’s in a place where chocolate waterfalls flow and sugar falls like sweet rain.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports on the life of Ferrara, the chairman of Chicago’s Ferrara Pan Candy Co. They also produce old favorites like Red Hots, Black Forest Gummy Bears, Boston Baked Beans and Jawbusters.
His son Salvatore, the company’s CEO, says the idea for Atomic FireBalls came in 1954, after his father served in Occupied Japan in the post-atom bomb era. Lemonheads followed in 1962, and Ferrara liked to joke that the idea came to him when his son was born with a head shaped like a lemon.
The company was founded by Ferrara’s father in 1908, and today produces about 1 million pounds of candy.
“He was an icon in the industry,” said Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association. “He was known for helping out other candy companies in distress, for cementing deals with just a handshake, and for being a great ambassador for the industry.”