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DANTE A. DIFRANCO, AERONAUTICAL RESEARCHER
OCT. 3, 1921 -- JULY 24, 2004

Dante Americo DiFranco of Buffalo, an aeronautical researcher who worked on the X-1 rocket plane, died Saturday in Oakwood Health Care Center in Williamsville. He was 82.

He was the father of singer Ani DiFranco.

Born in Erie, Pa., Mr. DiFranco was given a middle name reflecting his parents' appreciation of their adopted country. The first in his family to attend college, he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and later attended MIT, where he met his architect wife, Elizabeth Ross.

His long and varied career in engineering included aeronautical as well as structural research and design, all in the Buffalo area. He worked at Bell Aircraft during the late 1940s as a researcher with expertise in aerodynamic stability and control. He worked on the X-1 rocket plane that broke the sound barrier. Mr. DiFranco recalled how this pioneering aircraft was so secret that fake propellers were attached to the fuselage when it was transported on wheels.

He later worked at Flight Sciences Laboratory, the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory and then shifted into architectural engineering, partnering with his wife to form the design team of DiFranco Associates.

In the 1980s, intrigued by the load-bearing potential of two-dimensional truss-and-beam systems, Mr. DiFranco created his signature "form adaptive structures." His mentor was Buckminster Fuller, developer of the geodesic dome.

Later in life, he added color to his printed representations of these geometrical designs, converting them into art. Though he had a mathematical mind, he also had an engaged social conscience and was an impassioned supporter of the arts. He was a devotee of such American artists as Martha Graham, Aaron Copland and Agnes DeMille.

"Above all he was a family man, whose idea of bliss was a simple picnic of pepperoni sandwiches with his wife and two children," said his daughter. "His love was steady and unconditional and his goodwill radiated quietly to all who knew him."

In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include his son, Ross of Lancaster; a sister, Jean Wilczewski of Erie, Pa.; and three grandsons.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Dietrich Funeral Home, 2480 Kensington Ave. Private burial will be in Forest Lawn.

[Rodda].

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