Linda Lia, wife of Capital Region auto magnate, dies at 76 – Times Union

She was 76.

Linda and Bill were equal partners in a relationship that resulted in a successful business empire and a close-knit family, according to their son, Bill Lia Jr.

While Bill Lia Sr. began pulling together the Lia Auto Group, which is now a billion-dollar automotive empire, Linda held down the family, creating enduring traditions and bonds that will last for generations, Lia’s son said.

Behind every great man is an even better woman, he said.

“Mom was definitely the rock behind my father when it came to everything outside of the business,” Lia said. “She made it her life’s work to keep her family together.”

Linda, who succumbed to cancer on Jan. 4, took particular pride in the holidays, whether organizing Easter egg hunts, roping her husband into donning Halloween costumes (and carving pumpkins) to elaborately decking out their Guilderland residence for Christmas, planning months in advance for the display that attracted visitors from across the region.

The couple was also engaged in philanthropic efforts, including support for the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The Brooklyn-born Lia, then Linda Pitruzzella, worked as a telephone operator during her youth and went to social clubs in the Red Hook neighborhood with her pals, including lifelong friend Karen VanCott. 

The 18-year-old Linda met her husband, Bill Lia, at one of these clubs and married him less than a year later.

“Together for the next 55 years, they would build a life that most could only dream of,” according to Lia’s obituary. “Mom will be remembered by all who knew her for her kind and caring heart and her unique and special way of making everyone feel welcome and a part of her family.”

The couple moved their family upstate in 1979 after Bill Lia Sr., who got his start in Manhattan’s Garment District working as a coat-cutter, entered the car business with a cousin. 

The Lia Auto Group started with a single lot in Delmar and eventually grew to 22 locations. 

Moving upstate was a big risk, their son recalled, particularly being away from their Brooklyn roots. 

While Bill was busy growing the business, Linda worked to raise their four children, becoming a regular presence at school and sporting events, dance recitals “and anything that was important to her children and later her grandchildren,” according to her obituary.

Linda urged close bonds — their children continue to live within walking distance of each other — and birthed the traditions that have been sustained decades later, including Friday night pizza nights, where she would easily crank out between 10 to 15 pizzas in an event that became a weekly ritual replete with wine and card-playing.

And then there were the Sunday dinners, which offered a showcase for Linda’s passion for cooking, including arancini, or rice balls.

“If you didn’t make Friday, you had to be there Sunday,” Lia said. 

Christmas was particularly special, where Linda and Bill dressed like Mr. and Mrs. Clause, even up until his final holiday.

Lia Sr. died Nov. 13, 2021 at the age of 85.

Inside the couple’s Guilderland home was a snow village and 25 stockings. But the real show was outside, where the dazzling display prompted letters from passersby touched by the effort — including a woman who made the trek annually with her late mother, their son recalled. 

“What else can I add to this?” Lia recalled his mother thinking annually. “She did this because she knew it was important to people.”

Those holiday traditions, including making gingerbread houses, will be passed onto her 15 grandchildren, ages 11 to 27, who referred to their grandmother as “Nama.”

In turn, she referred to them as her pride and joy, her son said.

Linda also enjoyed traveling and going out to dinners with family and friends. “She always worked hard to take care of herself by going to the gym and staying in touch with the latest fashion trends,” her obituary read.

Linda is survived by her children: Michael Lia (Susanna), Bill Lia (Miranda), Deborah Simeone (Ralph) and Vincent Lia (Ann), as well as her grandchildren.

All are welcome to attend a funeral Mass on Monday at 10 a.m. in Christ the King Church, 20 Sumter Ave., Guilderland. The Mass will be live-streamed on the parish website at 

Entombment will follow in The Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna. Family and friends are invited to a celebration of life event after the services at 1:30 p.m. at Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations may be made in memory of Linda Lia to the American Cancer Society, 1 Penny Ln, Latham, NY, 12110 or by visiting

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