A Penrith icon remembered: Tributes flow for our ‘pen man’

John Boccanfuso's sister Patricia speaks at his funeral. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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His place in Penrith never to be forgotten, John Boccanfuso was remembered by friends, family and community members at a funeral service earlier today.

Boccanfuso became known affectionately as the ‘pen man’, selling more than one million pens for charity for almost 50 years from his stand in Penrith.

The Penrith character was in a serious accident at 12-years-old that left him with brain damage. He would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

There were emotional scenes at John Boccanfuso’s funeral. Photo: Melinda Jane.

In 1974, disability charity Aruma (formerly known as House with No Steps), arranged for Boccanfuso to sell fundraising pens in Parramatta. He quickly moved to Penrith, his home for the next half a century. He would become an icon in the city.

For years he worked seven days a week selling his pens, leaving the nursing home that would become his residence for many years to work between 10am and 2pm.
He has been in ill health for some time and hasn’t been spotted at Westfield for several years.

Boccanfuso received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2012 for his service to people with a disability.

John Boccanfuso was a regular fixture at Westfield Penrith.

He was also named among Westfield Penrith’s Local Heroes in 2018.

News of his passing has touched the Penrith community, with hundreds of tributes on social media.

And Westfield Penrith has confirmed it will work to establish a permanent memorial to honour Boccanfuso’s place in the shopping centre’s history.

Jacinda Dobson from Westfield Penrith speaks at the funeral. Photo: Melinda Jane.

At his funeral service on Wednesday, sister Patricia and nephew Ben both spoke, along with several friends and Jacinda Dobson from Westfield.

With a bottle of VB sitting on his casket, people shared memories of Boccanfuso and stories about his life.

The man himself remained happy despite the challenges he faced in his life.

John Boccanfuso was remembered on Wednesday. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“I was born into an Italian family and was the last of five children,” he once wrote.

“I liked playing cricket, soccer and I was particularly good at tennis and football.

“I also loved riding my bike. Being raised in an Italian family, I was a Catholic and graduated to being an altar boy.

John Boccanfuso was remembered on Wednesday. Photo: Melinda Jane.

“Life was full of adventure. However, when I was 12-years-old, my life changed dramatically.”

“Life would never be the same,” he said, and while that’s true, there can be no doubt that the life Boccanfuso did lead brought joy to many. He will never be forgotten.

John Boccanfuso selling pens in 1988. Photo: Penrith City Library.
Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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