People across Greater Sudbury are still coming to grips with the death of city councillor Fabio Belli.

In just three years on city council, Fabio Belli became known for raising his voice at meetings — whether the topic was arenas or stop signs.

The 37-year-old husband and father of two passed away of a heart attack on Saturday morning while visiting family in Florida.

City councillor Ron Dupuis said he knew Belli when he was a young man and encouraged him to run for council. 

Belli represented Ward 8 on Greater Sudbury city council. He was first elected in 2010.

fabio belli and family

Fabio Belli had a heart attack on Saturday morning while visiting family in Florida. He was a well-known soccer tournament organizer and businessman before being elected to council in 2010. He leaves behind a wife and two young daughters. (Supplied)

While Belli was known for raising his voice at council meetings, he was different away from the public eye, Dupuis said.

"Fabio was just a big teddy bear, just a big softy. We always enjoyed talking hockey. He was just a great human being and very passionate about what he did."

'I can't believe he's gone'

The chair of the Community Action Network in the New Sudbury ward that Belli represented said he aimed to respond to resident emails and phone calls within four hours — and often did, even when on vacation.

"Even if he was talking to a constituent who didn't agree with what he was saying, he always tried to make sure that that person was happy and satisfied," Rachelle Niemela​ said. "We'll miss him. I just can't believe he's gone."

Belli was born and raised in Sudbury, and is a graduate of St. Charles College and Cambrian College.

He was well known in local sports circles, as the co-founder of the Panhellenic Soccer tournament and the sporting goods companies he started, Just Soccer and BMI apparel.

Belli was a fixture at Sudbury Wolves hockey games as well, running the souvenir store in the arena.

He had a stroke in November, and stepped away from the council table for a few months. He gave an impassioned speech on his return in January.

"I never thought about this kind of stuff until Nov. 16 ... it didn't matter if we had a new arena, it didn't matter if I had stop signs, [it] didn't matter what happened in this community ... my health was going to be No.1."

Belli leaves behind his wife Sue, and daughters Emma and Brianna.