Jan. 22, 1927 — March 30, 2019
As a young man, Michael Christopher Angrisano lived on South Division Street near Hamburg Street. Fifty-three years later, as a battalion chief in the Buffalo Fire Department, he would help direct operations at the most deadly incident in the history of the department, just a few minutes from his former home.
The propane leak that leveled a bakery supply company and four-story brick warehouse at North Division and Grosvenor streets on the evening of Dec. 27, 1983, killed five firefighters and two civilians.
That evening, Mr. Angrisano was at a retirement gathering at Engine 1 at Ellicott and South Division streets when the call came in for a possible propane leak, and apparatus from that house responded. Mr. Angrisano later told his son Louis, also a Buffalo firefighter, that he stayed behind, but minutes later, "We hear the explosion, we look at each other and we just go."
"He talked to me many times about it," said Louis Angrisano, who had taken an agility test to join the department on the day of the blast. "He said it was complete devastation, far beyond anything he had ever seen."
Despite that and many other tragedies he saw in his 35 years with the Buffalo Fire Department, Mr. Angrisano often said, "I'm a lucky guy," said his daughter Joanne Mendiola.
Mr. Angrisano died on March 30, 2019, surrounded by family in his Harris Hill home. He was 92.
He retired in 1992 as a battalion chief after 35 years with the Buffalo Fire Department. He also worked as a house painter until age 80.
Mr. Angrisano was born on Jan. 22, 1927, the oldest surviving child of Italian immigrants Lucia Magistrale and Louis Angrisano and brother of Samuel, Josephine and Rosetta. Two older brothers, both named Samuel, died as children.
Mr. Angrisano's father was a barber who worked in a steel mill during World War II. His mother operated a small dry goods store out of their home, where Mr. Angrisano helped out.
He attended St. Columba School, Public School 6 and Technical High School, from which he graduated in 1943. To the end of his life, he recalled his old high school on Hickory and Clinton in detail.
As a youth, Mr. Angrisano sold newspapers around the old Memorial Auditorium, set up bowling pins and worked in a bakery, his family said.
He grew up with extended family and many cousins who were also playmates. He fondly recalled spending summers with cousins and neighbors who piled onto trucks to be taken "down the country" to farms near North Collins to pick crops. They would live in shacks on the farms, and Mr. Angrisano recalled sharing meals and singing around the fire.
After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy in 1946, serving two tours of duty. While in the service, he completed some higher education courses.
In 1948, he met his wife-to-be, Patricia Cullen, when a friend driving a truck picked up her and a friend who were hitchhiking to Crystal Beach. They met again by chance on the stairs of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Mr. Angrisano recalled hearing the song "King of the Road" on speakers when they met.
They married on Oct. 3, 1951.
Mr. Angrisano was hired by the Buffalo Fire Department in July 1957, and was promoted to junior captain, now the rank of lieutenant, in January 1962. He became a captain at Engine 2 at Jersey and Plymouth in 1969, and stayed at that house through the 1970s, his son said. In 1981, he became battalion chief on the 2nd Platoon.
At work, he was known as Captain Mike, Mike Sullivan and Mike the Painter.
His family said that Mr. Angrisano liked to bring doughnuts to work and they estimated that in his life he ate "tens of thousands of them." He was a regular at Tim Hortons on Transit near Maple in Amherst, where the staff knew him for his daily large coffee and a double bacon with no mayonnaise.
His family described Mr. Angrisano as a prolific reader, especially of history and politics, and a philosopher who enjoyed debating. He had what his family called "an uncanny knowledge of baseball stats." He loved most kinds of music, from opera to country.
His wife, Patricia, died Feb. 3, 2016.
Mr. Angrisano is survived by four daughters, Michele Bjella, Joanne Mendiola, Patty Sue Angrisano Ossa and Dorothy Curry; two sons, Louis and Michael C. Angrisano Jr.; a sister, Rosetta Siracuse; and 12 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, 4375 Harris Hill Road, Clarence.