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Neil R. Farmelo, former U.S. attorney, expert in planned giving law

Dec. 14, 1928 – May 16, 2016

Neil R. Farmelo, a lawyer, community leader and philanthropist, died May 16 under hospice care in his Williamsville home. He was 87.

In 1960, he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Then 31, Mr. Farmelo was the youngest U.S. attorney in the nation at that time.

He left the post following the election of President John F. Kennedy. He turned down an offer by then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to serve as the first head of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Task Force because he did not want to move his young family to Washington, D.C.

Instead, Mr. Farmelo went into private law practice. He formed his first firm in 1961 with Rep. William E. Miller of Lockport. He retired from full-time law practice as a partner in Diebold & Farmelo in 1990, but continued part-time until 2003.

He became an expert in the law of planned giving and worked to expand its use by nonprofit agencies. In addition to his law practice, he worked as a volunteer on planned giving for Nichols School, which four of his children attended. In 1990, he was appointed director of planned giving and remained in that post until earlier this year.

He was president of the Planned Giving Consortium of Western New York and chairman of Leave-A-Legacy of Western New York.

He also served as a trustee at Nichols School from 1977 to 1990 and was chairman from 1979 to 1987, the first non-alumnus to hold that position. He created the Neil Farmelo Scholarship Fund to promote diversity at Nichols. In 1985, he received the school’s Honorary Alumnus Award.

He also was chairman of the board of the Presbyterian Homes of Western New York Foundation and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society. He was instrumental in bringing JoAnn Falletta to serve as the orchestra’s music director.

He was president of Central Referral Service Inc. and served on the boards of Buffalo General Hospital and Kevin Guest House.

He and his wife donated funds for the Farmelo-Allen Chapel at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, where she was one of the leading volunteers. He participated in all 20 of the annual Rides for Roswell.

An avid recreational athlete until shortly before his death, he rode his Italian racing bike 20 to 25 miles a day. Into his 80s, he took bicycling tours of France, Italy and the California wine country.

In 2002, he was one of the runners who carried the Olympic Torch through the Buffalo area en route to the Winter Games in Utah.

He also enjoyed sailing, skiing and tennis. He owned several boats, which he sailed from the Buffalo Yacht Club at Point Abino, Ont.

Born in Elkland, Pa., he was valedictorian of his high school class and served in the Army as part of the occupying forces in Japan following World War II.

Returning from service, he went to the University at Buffalo, working in steel mills to support himself. He completed a program which allowed him to get his undergraduate degree and law degree in six years, graduated in 1953 and took a job in the state Attorney General’s Office.

His wife of 64 years, the former Doris Allen, died last November. Survivors include three sons, David A., John C. and Allen C.; two daughters, Laura B. and Martha J.; and five grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 11 a.m. June 4 in Kenmore Presbyterian Church, 2771 Delaware Ave., Kenmore.

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