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2017 Outstanding Citizen: Jonathan A. Dandes, 'tenacious believer in Buffalo'

Jonathan A. Dandes' jammed schedule has provided some good fodder for teasing from his bosses, Bob and Mindy Rich.

"They are fond of telling me, 'You do have a day job,'" said Dandes, who is president of Rich Baseball Operations. That puts him in charge of the Riches' three minor-league baseball teams, including the Buffalo Bisons, as well as Be Our Guest Ltd., a Rich Products subsidiary that oversees the public space at Canalside.

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"I'd like to say I've been able to do that fairly well," Dandes said, with small laugh. That is true: Dandes came to work for the Rich family's now-$3.8-billion food business in 1986 and by the mid-1990s became a leader in the company's entertainment group. At the same time, he emerged as a community leader whose work is expansive and ongoing.

In 1994, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed him to the UB Council. Dandes still holds that seat, and also chairs the Buffalo Zoo, Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo Public Schools Foundation and is vice chair of Upstate New York Transplant Services. He is past chairman of Visit Buffalo Niagara, Curtain Up!, and is a longtime leader in the Western New York Chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association.

No surprise, the Riches encourage Dandes' widespread involvement. "Jon has always been a tenacious believer in Buffalo and others can’t help but get caught up in his enthusiasm," the couple said in an email to The News. "Not only does he have vision for a better future, he tirelessly logs the daily work behind the scenes to make it a reality."

When he talked about the Riches' support during a recent interview with The News, Dandes also brought up his wife, Marcy, who died unexpectedly last month at age 66. "The other half of that is family support," Dandes said. "Right up until a couple of weeks ago ..."

His voice cracked, and he continued. Marcy Dandes worked closely with her husband on on behalf of ECMC, where Jon had a life-saving kidney transplant in 2007, and in raising funds for Shea's Performing Arts Center.

"She was a part of all of it," Dandes said. "She was the North Star, if you will, of getting stuff done. When she was committed, she was all in, and therefore so was I."

He still is.

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