March 23, 1934 – March 5, 2018
Norm DiDonato faced his most daunting challenge as a structural engineer right after he graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a civil engineering degree in 1956.
Assigned by the Army to the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, which managed nuclear weapons, he worked with a group of engineers in the Pentagon.
“They designed bridge structures to withstand atomic bomb blasts,” his son, John, said. “He said he felt pretty lucky that he didn’t have to go out when they tested the bombs.”
Mr. DiDonato, who went on to head the local engineering and architecture firm DiDonato Associates for many years, died Monday in his Getzville home after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 84.
Born in Greenville, Pa., Norman Michael DiDonato was the son of Italian immigrants. After the Army, he worked in Youngstown, Ohio, with the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., a leading developer of suburban plazas and shopping malls.
Two friends from Greenville, Al Stangel and Bob Mariacher, invited him to Buffalo in 1964 to work in their commercial development company.
The following year, he joined with Al Weber and James Renaldo to form Weber, DiDonato & Renaldo, an engineering and architecture firm.
“The firm did a lot of highway and bridge work,” his son said, “and it did architectural work, too, because it always came in the door.”
As a structural engineer, Mr. DiDonato “would make the building stand up,” his son noted. “He wasn’t the architect that would make it look pretty.”
On their signature projects, Erie Basin Marina and the Buffalo Convention Center, Renaldo did the architectural design, while Mr. DiDonato designed the infrastructure.
After the company became DiDonato Associates in 1989, projects included Try-It Distributing headquarters in Lancaster, improvements at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the design for returning auto traffic to Main Street in downtown Buffalo.
The company won awards from the American Institute of Architects and the American Public Works Association. It was named among the Buffalo Business First Best Places to Work in 2006 and The Buffalo News Top Places to Work in 2015.
“It boils down to being a family business,” said his son, who now is president of the company. “It’s more laid back, relaxed. My father would talk to everybody.”
Semi-retired in recent years, he continued to visit the office regularly and attend industry events, especially golf outings.
He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Society of Professional Engineers and Lancaster Country Club.
He was honored in 2014 when Mayor Byron W. Brown proclaimed Norman DiDonato Day.
He was especially proud of the landscaped yard and garden he created. He spent winters in Naples, Fla.
Survivors also include his wife of 60 years, the former Janet M. Eisler; two daughters, Toni and Jody Bustamante; a brother, Robert; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:45 a.m. Saturday in St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1700 North French Road, Getzville.