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Sylvester J. Ferrari, supporter of the arts and parks, dies at 75

Oct. 1, 1942 – Oct. 10, 2017

Sylvester J. Ferrari and his wife, Kathryn, moved from the Buffalo area to Cleveland in 1968, but they never severed their connections to Western New York.

Devoted collectors of works by regional artists from Buffalo and Cleveland, they were major donors to the Burchfield Penney Art Center, including loaning their own art work. They also supported other exhibits, donated to the building fund and offered input for the new gallery on Elmwood Avenue.

"He believed that Charles Burchfield deserved a museum of his own and worked to make that happen," Kathryn Ferrari said of her husband. "He loved Buffalo so much and wanted to make it better."

She said they visited regularly, with must-stops for charcoal broiled hot dogs at Ted's Hot Dogs, Bocce pizza, beef on weck and other Buffalo specialties. But their major interest was aiding cultural institutions, including the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Burchfield Penney.

Mr. Ferrari, founder of an executive search firm and major supporter of arts and other organizations in Buffalo, died Oct. 10 in Pompton Plains, N.J. He was 75.

Most recently of of New York City and formerly of Williamsville, Mr. Ferrari was born in Buffalo, the son of the late Sylvester and Rose Ferrari. He  graduated from Williamsville Central High School in 1960, and attended the University at Buffalo. He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the National Guard, serving from 1964 to 1970.

Mr. Ferrari developed an interest in art as a child that continued into adulthood, his wife said. He not only collected art, but also enjoyed researching artists and their work, she said.

Known to friends and family as Jay, Mr. Ferrari began his career in sales with the Campbell Soup Co. in 1967, and went on to work for various companies in sales management in Buffalo, Cleveland, and Minneapolis, over the next 17 years. In 1984, he founded Ferrari Search Group, a boutique executive search firm specializing in financial services in the United States and Canada. He retired in 2008.

He was a volunteer and fund-raiser for many Buffalo and Cleveland arts institutions. In addition to his Buffalo board positions with Burchfield-Penney and Olmsted Parks, he served on the board of the Cleveland Artists Foundation and was a founding board member of the Painting and Drawing Society of The Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Ferraris were members of many other arts organizations, as well as donors of paintings, books and memorabilia pertaining to these institutions. Among other activities, they participated in a group that visited art museums to inform the process for building a new Burchfield Penney gallery, Kathryn Ferrari said.

Scott Propeack, chief curator and interim co-director at Burchfield Penney, said in an email that Mr. Ferrari developed a particular interest in the artists of the early to mid-20th century. Through family relationships, this drew his interest to Burchfield and members of the Buffalo Society of Artists, the Patteran Society, the Art Institute of Buffalo and the Albright Art School.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Ferrari is survived by a son, Braden A.; a daughter, Karlyn A.;  a brother, Paul; a sister, Elisa McArthur, and three grandsons.

There is no visitation or service.

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