Mazzola, Arthur Henry (1922-2020)

  • By Rita Cipalla
  • Posted 2/08/2021
  • Essay 21178

Arthur Henry "Art" Mazzola was born near Boston on November 27, 1922, to Pietro and Elidia Mazzola, immigrants from northern Italy. A lover of the arts, he attended Boston University, served in the U.S. Army, and moved with his wife Nell to Seattle, where he served on the board of Pacific Northwest Ballet for four decades and was a member of the Seattle Arts Commission. A popular man about town, Mazzola treasured his Italian American roots and was instrumental in establishing the Seattle Perugia Sister City Association. Most of his professional life was spent in leasing and finance. In 1971, he co-founded Medical Acceptance Corp., which helped finance doctors and hospitals, and in 1977 he became president of Federal Capital Corp. He died on March 22, 2020, at the age of 97. 

Massachusetts Roots

Arthur Henry Mazzola (1922-2020) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on November 27, 1922. During his youth, Mazzola, his younger sister Louise (1925-2019) and his parents, Pietro and Elidia Mazzola, lived in Quincy, a suburb of Boston. His father, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1912, was a pattern maker in a factory and later worked as a mason.  

Art Mazzola graduated in 1941 from Quincy High School, where he was active in tennis, glee club, drama, and was on the school paper. He attended Boston University before joining the U.S. Army in 1943, serving for three years. In 1946, he married Nell Esther May (1920-2006) in Boise, Idaho, and the couple moved to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1950s. Nell, born in Rupert, Idaho, was an artist and jewelry maker who exhibited at some of the local galleries. They divorced in 1970.

In 1971, he married Cynthia M. Nelson; the marriage lasted four years. From 1976 to 1991 he shared his Washington Park home with Carolyn Paquette. On February 14, 1998, he married Dorothy Holland Mann, a public health expert and arts supporter. The couple divorced in 2002. For the final seven years of his life, he spent time with his companion Jo Anne Niles. Mazzola had five children: Joan, Dianne, Cheri, Christopher, and a son Paul (1952-2017) who predeceased him. He had 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

A charming raconteur, sailing and tennis aficionado, voracious reader, and passionate arts supporter, Mazzola was active in many cultural and nonprofit organizations, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Rotary Service Foundation, Seattle Arts Commission, and Seattle Sister Cities.

Leasing and Finance Pro

Mazzola had a long career in sales and financing. In 1963, he passed the state exam and received his license to become a broker-dealer with Trans-Pacific Leaseco, Inc., a company headquartered in Portland, Oregon, that leased trucks, equipment and personal property. He quickly moved up the corporate ladder, appointed vice president in 1967 and president in 1968. In 1970, the firm expanded, acquiring Trans Pacific Leasing Services, Ltd., of Vancouver, British Columbia, which was western Canada's largest independent leasing company.

In 1971, Mazzola co-founded Medical Acceptance Corp., which provided financing for doctors, clinics, and hospitals. He joined American Federal Leasing Corp. in 1973, where he was named executive sales director. In 1977, he became president of the Federal Capital Corp.

With his extensive business experience and outgoing personality, he was a popular speaker at business conferences and workshops. He spoke on topics such as financial management, lending practices, and other aspects of running a small business. In 1980, he was appointed a regional delegate to the White House Conference on Small Businesses, the first of three conferences (the others were in 1986 and 1995) held to improve the economic environment for small businesses in the United States.

When inflation and interest rates soared in the early 1980s, Mazzola commented about the difficulties facing small business owners: "At Federal Capital Corp., an equipment leasing firm, the entire office staff now pitches in to get debtors to pay their debts. 'Everyone works part time on receivables because, being a small business, we don't have the luxury of having a staff just to do that,' said Arthur Mazzola, president. He noted that some clients have opted to put off payment and add late fees because that's cheaper than borrowing money. That, however, crimps Mazzola's cash flow" (Leven).

Cheerleader for the Arts

Mazzola was passionate about the arts and devoted significant time and energy to several nonprofit boards. His enthusiasm was legendary. Friends referred to him as a cheerleader; Carole Beers, The Seattle Times dance critic, called him "an evangelist tout" (Beers). His obituary noted his "warm and engaging charm and his genuine interest in people of all ages. He approached life with a bountiful joie de vivre which was contagious. He was a great storyteller and voracious reader" ("Mazzola, Arthur Henry").

Mazzola served for four decades on the board of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, elected as board vice-president in 1980 and president in 1984. He was later given the title of Trustee Emeritus. At the June 26, 1985, annual board meeting, held at the Seattle Tennis Club, Mazzola, then board president, had the happy task of announcing that the ballet had achieved a surplus of $300,000 -- its most profitable year to date. The announcement was particularly gratifying because "many other Seattle performing arts companies ... are ending the season with debt. Seattle Opera, for example, had announced Tuesday it had lost $550,000 during the 1984-85 season" (Carter).

In recalling their days together on the board of directors at PNB, friend and fellow trustee emeritus Jane McConnell spoke of Mazzola's larger-than-life enthusiasm: "Everywhere he went, he talked about the ballet. He had a great attitude and his enthusiasm was contagious, whether he was talking to other board members or to members of the community. He and I worked on the ballet's second set of by-laws in 1984. ... He was knowledgeable about things like finance, governance, and fundraising" (McConnell interview).

As part of his work with the PNB board, Mazzola helped raise the money needed to build The Phelps Center. The Phelps Center, which opened in 1993, "houses eight ballet studios, a library, costume shop, therapy room, and administrative and school offices. It is regarded as the finest ballet facility in the United States and is envied by dance companies all over the world ... Its existence alone is an astonishing feat in our profession" (Brotman).

At the gala opening of The Phelps Center on January 22, 1993, after a decade of hard work and planning, Mazzola was in attendance, bubbling over with energy. "I'm glad this is turning out to be a real party. [I'm] so excited, I can't calm down" (Hunt). He proved it by stomping his feet to a rousing military march, played by the PNB orchestra. More than 1,500 donors joined Mazzola at the gala that cold winter evening.

In addition to the ballet, he served on several other nonprofit boards. In the 1970s, he was on the board of directors of the Washington Association for Retarded Children, King County chapter (In 1981, the organization changed its name to the Association for Retarded Citizens, later shortened to ARC). This group helped locate educational, legal, employment, and counseling services for families with developmentally disabled children.

He began serving on the Seattle Arts Commission in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and took an active role as a member of the Seattle Rotary Service Foundation, where his talents as an expert salesman frequently came into play. As friend and fellow Rotary member Lynn Lindsay recalled: "Every year when we had our annual fundraising campaign, it was Art who picked up the phone and called all the people who had not yet responded. We thought of him as our closer" (Lindsay interview).

Italian Roots and Sailing Skills

Mazzola valued his Italian American heritage and traveled to Italy frequently. He was one of the founders of the Seattle Perugia Sister City Association. The sister city program was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) in 1956, and its citizen-diplomats work to maintain educational, cultural and commercial ties as a way to promote global understanding.

The discussions around establishing a sister city bond between Seattle and Perugia, Italy, were underway for several years before the relationship was approved by Seattle Mayor Norman Rice (b. 1943) in September 1991 and officially executed in 1993. "The Seattle Perugia Sister City Association meets Tuesday at the Stimson-Green Mansion, 1204 Minor St. The restaurant connection? The whole endeavor (which was approved by the mayor a week ago) was started by Dr. Hans Lehman, Art Mazzola, Saleh Joudeh and others at Saleh al Lago a couple of years ago ("Dining-Future File"). 

Journalist Mike James, a former Seattle Perugia Sister City Association president, credited Mazzola's many cultural and community contacts as being instrumental in orchestrating approval for the sister city bond. "Back in the early '90, when at least one other Italian city was in the running, Art's leadership and contacts with so many in Seattle government (he was a particular friend and tennis partner of Mayor Rice) made the selection of Perugia possible" (Facebook). 

Not only was Mazzola an enthusiastic tennis player, he was also a skilled sailor. He named his sailboat Ciao (Italian for "hello" or "goodbye") and called the smaller onboard dinghy Ciao Baby. Although he often sailed alone, Mazzola enjoyed extending a helping hand to others who might be new at the sport. Jane McConnell recalled the time when "we had just gotten our sailboat and Art said he would give us a sailing tutorial. My husband was already a good sailor but, of course, we went. [Art] spent a lot of time sailing, mostly by himself. He had a great singing voice and loved to sing Italian songs, especially when he was out on the water" (McConnell).

Mazzola never lost his love for aviation, as well, which had been sparked during his years in the military. Alan Veigel, former president of the Seattle Perugia Sister City Association, recalled how Mazzola enjoyed taking his Italian friends to the Museum of Flight, familiar with "every aspect of the exhibits." An immaculate and stylish dresser, regardless of the occasion, "Arturo was a great guy, always up and cheerful, a gentleman and a scholar, always reading a new book and always impeccably dressed. ... He was just a very likeable guy and willing to contribute to his community" (Veigel).


"Seattle's Business," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 16, 1973 (; Pamela S. Leven, "Rates Squeeze Small Business," Ibid., September 12, 1981; Don Carter, "Ballet Leaps to Financial Heights," Ibid., June 27, 1985; Judi Hunt, "Ballet Revels in New Phelps Center," Ibid., January 25, 1993; "Leasing Firm Reports Sharp Gains," The Seattle Times, April 30, 1970 (; "PNB Balances Budget," Ibid., June 19, 1984; Carol Beers, "Ballet's Future is Rosy," Ibid., June 27, 1985; "Dining – Future File," Ibid., September 13, 1991; Susan Brotman, "Seattle Center Improvements – Ballet Facility Not Mentioned" (editorial), Ibid., November 7, 1995; "Mazzola, Arthur Henry" (obituary), Ibid., April 19, 2020; Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association, website accessed December 18, 2020 (; Facebook, Seattle Perugia Sister City Association, website accessed December 10, 2020 (; Rita Cipalla interview with Jane McConnell, December 14, 2020, transcript in possession of Rita Cipalla; Rita Cipalla interview with Lynn Lindsay, December 18, 2020, transcript in possession of Rita Cipalla; Alan Veigel, email to Rita Cipalla, December 13, 2020; Washington, U.S., Marriage Index, 1969-2017; Washington, U.S., Divorce Index, 1969-2017; Idaho, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1864-1967 (Ancestry).

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