May 4, 1938 – March 29, 2020
The family of Donald P. Wrobel, longtime owner of Lumen Power Sources, knew he was respected professionally and regarded personally as a kind, gentle, pleasant man.
But even Judith Wrobel, his wife of nearly 59 years, didn't realize the impact her husband had on people he met.
Then, after his unexpected death from pneumonia in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, the letters and cards started arriving, growing to more than 100.
Some were from longtime friends, but "some I hardly knew," Mrs. Wrobel said. "They would say, 'Please take comfort in knowing that Don was revered not only in the business world, but also for being the kindest, gentlest man and friend anyone could ask for.' That was a common sentiment, and they were all so warm.
"I was not aware of the impact he had on all these people," said Mrs. Wrobel. But in return for her husband's kindnesses – sometimes a helping hand or good turn done decades ago – those who write and call "are surrounding me with all this warmth and caring," she said.
An Amherst resident, Mr. Wrobel died March 29, 2020, at the age of 81.
He was the middle of three children of Alfred Wrobel and Bernadette Engler Wrobel of Cheektowaga. He graduated in 1955 from the electrician program at Seneca Vocational School, where he had perfect attendance all four years; made the honor roll eight times; played intramural basketball, volleyball and baseball; sang in the glee club; and in his junior and senior years was a member of the all-male cheerleading squad. He graduated in 1957 from Erie County Technical College with a degree in electrical engineering.
Mr. Wrobel served in the National Guard from 1958 to 1961 at Camp Drum, N.Y., and in New Jersey.
He and Judith M. Gartler knew each other through mutual friends while attending different high schools, then became reacquainted while he was working as a draftsman for Wilson Klaes Brucker and Associates, an engineering and architecture firm, and she was a secretary for Case Manufacturing, both on Delaware Avenue.
They would see each other in the Mayflower Cafe, where junior staffers picked up coffee orders for the office, and on the walk over to Main Street to catch the bus.
"I just fell in love with him," Mrs. Wrobel said. They became a couple in September 1960, were engaged at Christmas and married on May 13, 1961, in St. Bartholomew's Church in Buffalo.
They lived in Cheektowaga, then moved to New Jersey, where Mr. Wrobel worked for the Federal Pacific Electric Co. for five years. When they returned to Western New York, they settled in Amherst, where they raised their three children.
In 1971, Mr. Wrobel co-founded Lumen Power Sources on Kensington Avenue in Snyder. Regarded as an expert in commercial lighting and engineering, he and his company worked on projects to illuminate the Buffalo Zoo, Canisius College, the former HSBC Arena and streets in the village of Orchard Park. After buying out his partner, Mr. Wrobel was owner and president of Lumen Power Sources until 2004, when he retired and sold the business.
In 2007, Mr. Wrobel served as the design review facilitator for the Buffalo and Fort Erie Peace Bridge Authority in selecting a candidate to illuminate the Peace Bridge.
A member of the Transit Valley Country Club for 34 years, he enjoyed golf, but his family said he was "happiest with a rod and reel in his hand." He was an avid bass and walleye fisherman and a founding member and officer of the Western New York Bassmasters. He enjoyed teaching fishing seminars hosted by the Bassmasters and introduced children to fishing through such organizations as Camp Good Days and Special Times. He enjoyed ice fishing in winter and deer hunting each fall.
The Wrobel family spent summers at their home on the Canadian lakeshore near Sherkston, Ont.
Besides his wife, Mr. Wrobel is survived by three sons, Mark, Eric and Gregory Wrobel; three grandchildren; 10 nieces and nephews; and several cousins.
A family gathering will be planned later in the summer.