Aug. 2, 1931 – Jan. 5, 2017
Eugene J. “Gene” Donner of Hamburg, an accountant and businessman known for his athletic achievements, died Jan. 5 after a short illness. He was 85.
A lifelong resident of Western New York, Mr. Donner was born in North Tonawanda, where he was raised on Cramer Street. He graduated in 1949 from North Tonawanda High School, where he lettered on the swim team. Shortly after graduation, he enlisted in the Navy and served on the USS Lake Champlain. He was based in Morocco during the Korean War.
He and the former Lola Mae Dreier were married April 28, 1956, and recently celebrated their 60th anniversary. They spent the winters at their home in Chandler, Ariz.
In the marriage’s early years, Mr. Donner was a production worker at Wurlitzer Corp., where he sanded piano benches. During this time, he attended Bryant & Stratton Business School and earned a degree in accounting. He was moved from the production facility into Wurlitzer’s accounting office, where he took a pay cut to begin his accounting/business career.
In 1960, Mr. Donner joined Moog Inc. in Elma, where the family moved in 1965. While at Moog, he also took night classes at the University of Buffalo and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1975.
After a brief stint at Freezer Queen Foods, Mr. Donner became a partner, accountant and sales representative for Jet Action Business Forms in Elma. In 1982, he partnered with his son Jeff to purchase Hamburg Offset Printing and, in 1986, left Jet Action to assist in the growth of the printing business.
Today, Hamburg Offset Printing, now known as Gateway Printing and Graphics Inc., is located on Big Tree Road in Hamburg and employs 40 people.
Mr. Donner was an avid bowler, tennis player and golfer. However, his real passion was swimming, and he competed in both national and international events with the U.S. Masters Swimming Program. He served on the board of USMS and was a volunteer for many collegiate and Olympic trial swimming events. In 1995, at the age of 64, he became a runner and, after competing in many local 5K events, completed his first and only marathon.
In 1986, he received he Niagara Masters Swimming John Skehan Award, and was a 1994 recipient of the USMS National Championship Meets Award and the 1997 recipient of the USMS Dorothy Donnelly Service Award. He also was instrumental in the construction of the West Herr Natatorium in the Burt Flickinger Athletic Center at Erie Community College’s downtown campus.
Mr. Donner was active in the Elma Kiwanis and was an assistant troop leader in the Elma Boy Scouts, where all three of his sons completed the requirements for Eagle Scout. He was a Sunday school teacher and baseball coach with the Elma Little League. He also was instrumental in establishing the North Tonawanda High School Multi Class Reunion.
Mr. Donner was known for his energetic spirit, compassion, generosity, sense of humor and willingness to help others.
Survivors include two other sons, James and John; three brothers, Joseph, David and Paul; a sister, Gloria Vogt; six grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.
A memorial service will be held in the spring to celebrate his life.