When Dr. Alexander A. Colalillo Sr. was 14, in the depths of the Depression, his father, Adam, was laid off as an elevator operator at RCA in Camden.

Adam then hoped to open a shoe repair shop, because he had been a shoemaker in the Italian province of Abruzzo.

But his son "convinced him to open a candy store in South Camden," said Dr. Alexander A. Colalillo Jr., speaking of his father.

"My father and my grandmother Marie sold frozen chocolate-covered bananas," among other sweets, over the counter at Alex's Candy Store. "It became an industry."

Through his high school years, the candy store "kept the family going."

On Monday, March 23, Dr. Alexander A. Colalillo Sr., 97, of Haddonfield, an orthodontist, died at home.

Dr. Colalillo Sr. was also the father of Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo. The prosecutor's office said she was unavailable for an interview.

Born in Camden, Dr. Colalillo graduated from Camden High School. For two years he worked "putting condiments into soup kettles" at the Campbell Soup Co. to earn enough to go to college, his son said.

He chose dentistry as his career, his son said, because "dental care when he was a kid was terrible."

After earning his degree at Temple University School of Dentistry, he entered the Army during World War II and was assigned to a military dental clinic on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

"He was in charge," his son said, "because he was the only dentist."

Dr. Colalillo was a major when he resigned from the Army Reserves in 1954, in the year that he completed a program in orthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that deals with teeth and jaws that are not well-positioned, said his son, who also is an orthodontist.

Dr. Colalillo Sr. was a staff dentist for the Veterans Administration in Philadelphia from the late 1940s into the early 1950s, when he entered Penn.

In the mid-1950s, he opened his solo orthodontics practice in Camden, moved it to Collingswood in 1971, and retired in the mid-1980s.

Dr. Brian Cardillo, 57, whose office is in Stratford, said that the senior Dr. Colalillo "was the single most important reason that I became a dentist."

When Dr. Cardillo was a young patient of Dr. Colalillo's, "he saw I had an interest" in the work.

"He would take me into the lab and show me models of the teeth, the work he was doing. And it really piqued my interest," though he did not become an orthodontist.

In the late 1940s, Dr. Colalillo became a trustee of the Camden Free Dental Clinic, "which provided free and low-cost dental care," his son said. In 1983 it became the Camden Dental Health Center. It closed in 1998.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he spoke at public meetings in favor of the fluoridation of public water systems.

"His sense of helping people developed when he was a kid," his son said. "He was a product of the Depression, when people reached out and helped."

Besides his son and daughter, Dr. Colalillo is survived by another daughter, Eva Marie O'Neill, and five grandchildren. His wife, Eva, died in March 2014.

A visitation was set from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. Friday, March 27, at Christ the King Church, 200 Windsor Ave., Haddonfield, before an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass there. Interment is to be private.

Donations may be sent to www.catholiccharitiescamden.org.

Condolences may be offered to the family at http://kainmurphy.com.

wnaedele@phillynews.com

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