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Dr. Thomas A. Lombardo Sr., retired West Side Buffalo pediatrician, dies at 100

Dec. 27, 1916 - Oct. 10, 2017

Dr. Thomas A. Lombardo Sr. was entrepreneurial as a young boy, presiding over one of the region's largest paper routes during the Great Depression.

During World War II, the Buffalo native was a resourceful young military doctor practicing medicine under rudimentary conditions in the Pacific. After completing his military service, Dr.  Lombardo stayed close to his roots, becoming a dedicated and popular local pediatrician after establishing a practice in the old neighborhood in which he was raised.

Dr. Lombardo died Oct. 10 at a nursing home in Lancaster. He was 100.

The eldest son of Sicilian immigrants, he was raised on the city's West Side, graduating from Grover Cleveland High School and Canisius College. He attended Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago, from which he graduated in 1941.

According to his son, Dr. Thomas A. Lombardo Jr., it was a family physician who paid a visit to the elder Dr. Lombardo's home when his father was just a youngster that inspired Dr. Lombardo Sr. to go into medicine.

"He was a family practice doctor who made a house call to his home on School Street on the West Side. He was so impressed with his demeanor. I think he came to see (Dr. Lombardo Sr.'s) little brother," the younger doctor recalled.

"The man asked him, 'How are your grades?' My father said, 'My grades are OK.' The man said: 'No, they can't be OK. They have to be very good. You have to be on the honor roll in every grade, starting right now in grammar school,'" Lombardo Jr. said.

That physician continued to follow Dr. Lombardo Sr.'s career from that point onward through college and he kept encouraging the young man. Lombardo Jr. said his father was very focused and not really the gregarious type.

"He was intense. Later in life, he was a very good toastmaster, and he could tell a joke," Lombardo Jr. said.

At 9 years old,  he obtained a paper route with The Buffalo Evening News. He and his younger brother, Phil, later added the Courier Express and the Buffalo Times to their route, which consisted of over 500 customers to whom they delivered the Sunday morning Courier. At the time, according to his family, this was reported to be one of the largest, if not the largest, paper routes in the country.

"He, at the age of 12, had a whole fleet of kids that worked for him," "He said they would show up and they all had wagons. Only, he had a News wagon," said Lombardo Jr.

"Eventually, he lost the paper route because somebody wrote in to Everybody's Column asking who's got the largest paper route in Western New York? And The News looked it up, and found out, my God, this kid has got way too many papers. Then the Courier saw The News article and said, wait a minute; he works for us, too!" Lombardo Jr. added.

Dr. Lombardo Sr. still managed to keep a very profitable paper route after that, the proceeds from which supplemented the family's income during the Great Depression and helped pay tuition for both brothers to attend Canisius College, as well as aiding Dr. Lombardo Sr. to enroll in medical school. He completed his internship at the former Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital.

From July 1, 1942 to Dec. 31, 1945, Dr. Lombardo Sr. served in active duty in the Army. After replacing the medical officer who had been killed by a sniper, he went on to serve in the Pacific Theater of Operations, specifically in the Philippines as a battalion commmander and medial chief in the artillery.

He vividly recalled a historic moment in the Philippines when his battalion landed on Luzon about the same time as Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

"He climbed down a rope ladder from a large ship onto a landing craft. He was standing on the beach when Gen. MacArthur landed. The general apparently didn't like his first landing because it wasn't dramatic enough to be captured on film," the younger Lombardo recalled. "So he made them do it all over again. My father saw that."

Dr. Lombardo Sr. attained the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star for his meritorious service under combat conditions.

After his discharge, he completed a pediatric residency at the E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital and in 1946, he began his own practice in a building he purchased at 305 Porter Ave. in the neighborhood where he grew up. His practice was one of the largest in Western New York.

Lombardo Jr. said his father moved the practice to Niagara Street in 1970 and finally to North Street in Allentown in 1975. Dr. Lombardo Sr. retired in 1982.

In 1940, he married Lucia Saglibene, who died in 1952. The following year, he married Roslyn Viverto-Kaczmarski, with whom he traveled the world, visiting all seven continents together. She died in 2010.

Dr. Lombardo Sr. was a member of the Erie County Medical Society; American Medical Association; Buffalo Pediatrics Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. He was a certified member of the American Board of Pediatrics, and a staff member of Buffalo Children's Hospital, Sisters of Charity Hospital, Erie County Medical Center and Millard Fillmore Hospital.

He was past president of E.J. Meyer Pediatric Alumni Association, and also on the faculty of State University New York at Buffalo
School of Medicine. Dr. Lombardo Sr. also was a past president of the Romulus Club and the Bacelli Club.

He is survived by two daughters, Josphine Arnold and Frances Kraus; a son, Dr. Thomas A. Jr.; a stepson, Joseph P. Kaczmarski; a brother, Anthony, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Saturday in St. Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church, 157 Cleveland Drive.

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