When the Buffalo Bisons of the All-America Football Conference sponsored an essay contest to re-name the team in 1947, Donald E. Sweet pulled an end run to win the $500 prize.
Instead of writing his entry, the 25-year-old illustrator took brush in hand and drew a caricature of Buffalo Bill, wearing an old leather helmet on an oversized head and riding a snorting, helmeted buffalo.
With a few modifications, the drawing became the team's logo for the next three seasons. The name Buffalo Bills, of course, has stuck around for 52 years.
Although archives indicate a James F. Dyson also received $500 for submitting the Bills name with a 25-word essay, Sweet has gotten a Ted Washington-sized share of the credit.
"I think about it all the time," Sweet said in 1994, as the Bills suited up for the last of their National Football League-record four straight Super Bowl appearances. "In my mind, I feel like I named the team, and I'm still a part of them."
Sweet, 77, who went on to become a colorful and prolific designer of restaurant interiors, died Thursday (Dec. 23, 1999) in Buffalo General Hospital, a week after undergoing heart surgery.
Born in Auburn, Sweet spent his youth there and in nearby Skaneateles, where he demonstrated his business acumen by supplying fresh fish and watercress to the Sherwood Inn and other restaurants.
Moving to Buffalo after the World War II era, Sweet opened a clothing store, Don Earl's, on Delaware Avenue.
A self-taught artist, he worked for the former Bowman & Block advertising agency in the 1950s before moving into the commercial interior design field.
Over the years, Sweet planned the interiors of many of the area's best-known restaurants, including the former Colony Club -- now Biac's -- Cole's, the Place, Gabriel's Gate, the Pierce Arrow, Mother's, the Eagle House and, recently, Pasquale's in Derby.
Shortly before his death, Sweet, who also did designs for a ski resort in Utah, a restaurant in Tiburon, Calif., and health and fitness centers and a restaurant in Florida, finished a new interior design for a Syracuse restaurant.
Among his many artistic credits is a cast-metal blueprint of the interior of a World War II fighter aircraft that hangs in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
He is survived by his wife, Dolores; six daughters, Holly Rupp of Kenmore, Susan Shatzel, Deborah Walsh, Heidi Szymaszek and Laurie; a stepdaughter, Leslie Calianno of Las Vegas; a stepson, Anthony Sole; a sister, Jane Sorenson of Hawaii; and 11 grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.