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A Tribute to Norm

If you knew Norm, you heard his stories, probably numerous times.  The one about him being born on the boat when his parents emigrated from Italy—but he was actually born in Greenville, Pennsylvania in 1934.  There were tales of his “misspent youth,” including bringing home hundreds of dollars to his mother after hustling people at the pool hall, and explaining that he would not be taking that job at the post office paying $1.50 an hour that she wanted him to get. And how after telling the Nuns at his high school he wouldn’t go to college unless he could go to Notre Dame, they filled out his application, sent it in, and he indeed, got into Notre Dame. 

After graduating from college in 1956 with a Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, Norm spent two years with the Army on a top secret assignment that was so secret, on the first day he was lost in the Pentagon as no one knew where he was supposed to be.

In June 1957, he married Jan Eisler and after his time in the Army, moved to Ohio to work with a well-known developer building shopping plazas and malls.  Norm moved his growing family up to Buffalo in 1964 to get into the commercial development business with friends, Al Stangel and Bob Mariacher. 

He left that partnership in 1965 to start his own engineering and architecture firm with partners, Al Weber and James Renaldo, Weber, DiDonato & Renaldo.  Over the years, the other partners left the business and Norm continued on his own as DiDonato Associates.  His son John DiDonato, who joined the company in 1985 while attending UB, and long-time employee, Greg Hewitt, became partners in 1989.

Norm was a registered Professional Engineer in New York and Ohio.

DiDonato Associates, along with its previous versions, was responsible for the design of several building and infrastructure projects throughout Buffalo and Western New York. Projects included:

  • Erie Basin Marina
  • Buffalo Convention Center
  • Holiday Twin Rinks
  • Hamlin Square Apartments – WNY AIA Award
  • Garden Village Town Homes – WNY AIA Award
  • Gardenville Industrial Park
  • Kobacker’s Department Store
  • Marine Midland Bank – Eastern Hills Branch
  • Parkside-Depew Intersection Improvements

More recent projects that Norm had worked on include:

  • Main Street Revitalization-Cars Sharing Main – WNY APWA Award for Transportation-500 Block
  • Ralph Wilson Stadium (now New Era Field) Lease Agreement Improvements
  • Maryvale Schools Reconstruction/Addition
  • Try-It Distributing Headquarters
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport Improvements including Runway Rehabilitations and Extensions

In his later years, even as he was winding down his involvement in daily project work, Norm loved coming to the office and keeping up-to-date on proposals and projects being worked on.  Making his rounds and chatting with the employees was one of his favorite things to do.  He was a regular for lunch at Bijou with John and Greg, and enjoyed attending industry events, especially golf outings.   

He was extremely proud of his beautiful backyard and garden, where he planted dozens of flowers and greenery.  He spent many evenings on the deck communing with nature, and feeding “Little Norman” his “pet” chipmunk that visited him often.  He also took great pleasure in driving his Corvette around in the warmer weather.

Norm’s legacy can be found in his beautiful family—wife, Jan; daughters, Toni and Jody; and son John,   along with 8 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren; his brothers, Joseph (deceased) and Robert; and several nieces and nephews.

But it also can be found on Main Street in Buffalo, with his work family, who will greatly miss their Founder and Leader, and in the buildings and roadways in Western New York in which he had a major part in designing and building.