Aug. 11, 1940 - Feb. 7, 2020
Even early in life, Thomas Andruschat rose above the physical challenges of living with cerebral palsy.
"He always acknowledged he had cerebral palsy, but he always wanted to be like everyone else," said Dr. Ronald B. Boersma, a friend since the two met in grade school in 1954. "He would play baseball and football and basketball. He rode a bike. He delivered papers."
His drive also led to educational and professional accomplishments over the decades. Mr. Andruschat, who died Friday in Mercy Hospital at the age of 79, was a partner in the Manchester and Andruschat law firm for 44 years practicing general law and some criminal cases early on. He was the East Aurora village attorney for 19 years.
He was also an advocate for those who faced similar challenges. Mr. Andruschat served on the board of directors for the United Cerebral Palsy Association of WNY (Aspire) from 1968-2005, including six years as president of the board. He served on the board of directors for the WNY Disabled Foundation for 30 years, including a three-year term as president.
In 2002, the Cerebral Palsy Association of New York State presented him with the Al Felmet Achievement Award in recognition of his achievements and his inspiration to all.
"He was courageous in the sense he never really backed down when confronted with an obstacle. He found a way," said Boersma, a retired Orchard Park cardiologist who called Mr. Andruschat his best friend.
Mr. Andruschat was born in Buffalo and grew up in Cheektowaga. He settled in East Aurora, where he raised a family, had his law practice on Main Street and also served as town prosecutor. He was active in the East Aurora Chamber of Commerce and also taught CCD classes for several years at his parish, Immaculate Conception.
He was a 1959 graduate of St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. While at St. Joe’s, he served as manager of the football team for four years. He was inducted into the school's sports hall of fame with the 1956-59 football team. His classmates held him in such high regard that the St. Joe’s Class of ’59 scholarship fund is named in his honor. In 2018, the school recognized his professional accomplishments and community activities by welcoming him into its Signum Fidei Society for distinguished alumni.
He graduated cum laude from Canisius College in 1963 and was a 1966 graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law.
"We never thought of my dad as different, even when we were little," said his daughter Amy Musante. "People would say, 'your dad walks funny and talks funny.' And we would respond, 'what do you mean? That’s just my dad."
He never complained about his physical disability or let it deter him, she said.
"My father did most everything on his own," she said, but as his physical limitations grew, he became more dependent on his family for support. His daughters, even as young girls, would shave him, pack up his brief case for board meetings and fix the swimming pool under his direction.
As he became more physically limited later in life, "those roles became even more important and drew us closer to him," she said.
Mr. Andruschat donated his body to UB Medical Research. So even in death, he contributed to his legacy of supporting efforts for people with disabilities and specifically cerebral palsy research.
A funeral Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. on April 24 at Immaculate Conception Church in East Aurora.
Surviving are two other daughters, Susan Neal and Pamela Casey; two brothers, Jack and James; a sister, Jan Phillips; and six grandchildren.