July 4, 1923 – Jan. 22, 2014
Louis Raymond “Lou” Reif, former chairman and chief executive officer of National Fuel Gas Co. who is credited with helping to transform the company, died last Wednesday in Westlake Village, Calif., where his daughter lives. He was 90.
Mr. Reif was born in Buffalo and graduated from Bennett High School. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Europe from 1943 to 1946. Following his service, he graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1948 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1951.
He and Nancy Heuer were married in April 1958.
Mr. Reif began his career as a lawyer with Iroquois Gas Corp. in 1952 and became company vice president in 1958. He was elected a director for National Fuel in 1966, became its president in 1974 and chairman of the board in 1987. Under Mr. Reif, National Fuel began diversifying beyond its traditional utility business in response to the area’s declining industrial base and changing economy.
While at National Fuel, he also was chairman of the American Gas Association and the International Gas Union – World Gas Conference in Munich in 1987.
He retired from the company in 1988 and became a consultant for Delaware North, where he oversaw the project to redevelop the Boston Garden sports arena.
An active leader in Western New York, Mr. Reif was director for the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, Millard Fillmore Hospital and the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.
He served as chairman of the National Alliance of Business and the Better Business Bureau, where he was active in the reorganization of its Consumer Complaint Division and developing hiring and training programs for minorities and the disadvantaged.
In 1997, Mr. Reif received UB’s Samuel P. Capen Award for his contributions to the university. He was chairman of the executive committee of the UB Foundation and national chairman of UB’s annual fund drive in 1988-89. Mr. Reif personally endowed the university’s Division of Athletics with $300,000 in 1994.
Mr. Reif also was a regional director for Marine Midland Bank, a trustee of Goldome Bank and Nichols School, and was involved with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
He was a member of the Country Club of Buffalo, where he loved to play golf, and was a voracious reader and a Porsche enthusiast.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Reif is survived by a daughter, Tracey Athanassiadis; a son, Christopher; and three grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be scheduled in Buffalo.