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Anthony J. Colucci Jr., 84, attorney who helped save the BPO

Sept. 6, 1933 — Aug. 15, 2018

In the 1970s and 1980s, attorney Anthony J. Colucci Jr. was the stable center around which high-profile controversies swirled.

As head of the Buffalo Municipal Civil Service Commission from 1968 to 1986, he pushed for more minority hiring in the police and fire departments.

And as chairman of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society Board, starting in 1982, he guided the BPO to financial stability through a tumultuous period of reduced county funding, administrative belt-tightening and a threatened musicians strike.

Mr. Colucci, who last served as special counsel to Duke, Holzman, Photiadis & Gresens, died Aug. 15 in Erie County Medical Center. He was 84.

While his training as an attorney made him rule-oriented, he was also open to change, said his son, Anthony J. Colucci III. "He would try to encourage change, such as with diversity in the municipal workforces, and he also did that with the Philharmonic, which at that time was struggling," he said.

In his legal practice, Mr. Colucci specialized in real estate, banking, corporate and finance law. But his community involvement was much more far-reaching.

"He was a faith-filled, civic-minded middle-class guy who came from very humble beginnings and took all of those traits as far as he could," said his son.

"He believed in giving back to the community really without qualification. He did that with personal service and guidance and was very generous with the resources he was able to develop as a businessman and an attorney, really right to his very last days," said his son.

Mr. Colucci grew up in North Buffalo, the middle child of Anthony and Rose Colucci, between sisters Phyllis and Rosemary. Mr. Colucci developed a love for opera and classical music as a child.

He graduated from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, then earned a bachelor's degree from Canisius College in 1955.

He earned his law degree from the University at Buffalo in 1958, serving on the staff of the Law Review.

After graduation, Mr. Colucci began work with Block, Colucci, Callanan and Crangle, a law firm co-founded by his uncle, Erie County Court Judge Ernest L. Colucci. Anthony Colucci practiced for decades in Western New York with several partners and later in Palm Beach, Fla.

Anthony J. Colucci Jr. and Carmela Colucci. (Photo by Tom Wolf/courtesy of Canisius College)

On Nov. 17, 1956, he married Carmela M. Anastasia, whom he met at a graduation party.

From the late 1960s through the late 1980s, Mr. Colucci was prominent in public service.

He served on the Buffalo Municipal Civil Service Commission from 1968 to 1986, spending 12 years as president. He spearheaded a campaign to encourage minority applicants to take the police and fire exams and expanded the definition of minorities to include Native Americans.

In 1976, he served on the board of the William Paca Society, to monitor anti-Italian discrimination.

In 1979, he joined the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society as a director, and in 1980, he led a successful fund drive for the fiscally stressed organization. As chairman of the board in the early 1980s, he cut non-musician staff and expenses and led a fundraising campaign. In 1983, the organization ended with an operating surplus for the first time in some 15 years.

Mr. Colucci was past president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild, the Marshall Lawyers Club, the Erie County Bar Foundation, the State Association of Civil Service Officials and the University at Buffalo Law School Alumni Association. He was chairman of the Columbus Day celebration in 1982.

In 1997, he was appointed to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, where he was chairman of the investment committee and was elected treasurer of the board. In 2006, he was appointed to the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority by Gov. George Pataki.

Mr. Colucci was devoted to both his high school and college. He was a trustee of St. Joseph's and a member of its Signum Fidei Society.

He was elected to the Canisius College Board of Regents in 1979 and the Board of Trustees in 1984, the same year he was awarded the college's LaSalle Medal for outstanding service. The family established the Anthony J. Colucci Jr. '55 Esq. Family Scholarship Fund and later supplemented it with a gift of more than $1 million.

"We have lost a good friend, trusted counselor and generous benefactor in Tony Colucci," said John J. Hurley, president of Canisius. "Throughout his life, Tony Colucci remained committed to his Catholic faith, inspired by the important lessons he learned from the Christian Brothers at St. Joe’s and the Jesuits at Canisius College."

Mr. Colucci served on the Erie County Cultural Advisory Board, the Sisters Hospital Foundation and the Arts Council of Buffalo and Erie County. In 1980, he was an inaugural member of the Buffalo Arts Commission. He was president of Buffalo Prep and chairman of the Western New York Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1985 and 1998, he was honored by the National Conference for distinguished service.

He served on the boards of many companies.

The Coluccis lost two sons to liver disease, Thomas Aquinas, 5, in 1968, and Peter Canisius, 13, five years later. Family friends set up a fund to open a clinic for youngsters suffering from liver disease, and Mrs. Colucci dedicated herself to the effort. In 1986, the Peter and Tommy Colucci Memorial Liver Research Center opened at Children's Hospital. Today, the Peter and Tommy Infusion Center is in John R. Oishei Children's Hospital.

In 1985, Mr. Colucci was named a Buffalo News Citizen of the Year.

A devout Catholic and a tireless Buffalo booster, in 1984, Mr. Colucci told News reporter Anthony Violanti, "A lawyer should be anticipating, not just reacting. He should be creative and provide service to the community, as well as his clients."

Besides his son and his wife of 61 years, Mr. Colucci is survived by his sisters, Phyllis Nigro and Rosemary Frisina, three grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Joseph University Church.

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