April 19, 1938 – Jan. 11, 2014
Al D’Orazio, a retired Buffalo firefighter who was an award-winning football player and referee, died Saturday in St. John the Baptist Hospice House after a year’s battle with cancer. He was 75.
Born in Buffalo, he was a 1957 graduate of South Park High School, where he played varsity football, basketball and baseball and earned first team All High honors in football during his senior year. He was part of the inaugural class inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
He was a running back on the University of Buffalo football team and, while serving in the Army, played on the U.S. Army football team. Returning from service, he played semi-pro football with the Lackawanna Steelers and was a member of the team that won the state championship in 1963.
Mr. D’Orazio worked at Western Electric before he joined the Buffalo Fire Department as a firefighter in 1972 and became an alarm office dispatcher in 1983. He was the dispatcher on duty the night of the deadly propane explosion in December 1983. He retired in 1992.
He served as chairman of the Buffalo Fire Department Beneficiary Association from 1984 to 1994 and was a loan officer with the Buffalo Fire Department Federal Credit Union from 1980 to 2008. He also served 12 years as chairman of the board of directors of the Firefighters Ball.
Mr. D’Orazio was a football official from 1968 to 2008 and was a member of the board of directors of the New York State Association of Certified Football Officials from 1983 to 2008. He was Western New York Chapter rules interpreter from 1998 to 2008 and was given the Mike Perry Award in 2004 as Referee of the Year for Western New York high school sports.
He also received the John D. Burns Memorial Award, the New York State Merit Award, the Richard Leous Service Award and the Section VI Football Federation Award.
He refereed 25 Harvard Cup championship games on Thanksgiving Days and was inducted into the Harvard Cup Hall of Fame in 2007. He also officiated at the first Section VI AA championship game in Rich Stadium in 1979 and the first State A championship game in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse in 1993.
He was the longest-tenured official to serve in the JFK Touch Football League, refereeing from 1964 to 1997. He also was the league’s assigning agent from 1968 to 1997. Last year, he was inducted into the league’s 50th anniversary Hall of Fame.
A Depew resident, he was a member of the Lake Erie Italian Club and enjoyed gardening.
Surviving are his wife, the former Debbie A. Prohaska Nowakowski; two sons, Dr. Paul and Robert; a brother, Pasquale; and three grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Wednesday in St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, St. Francis Drive, Athol Springs.