Died Feb. 17, 2021
Al Maroone, who extended his success as a Buffalo auto dealer by building a chain of dealerships in South Florida, died Feb. 17 in his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 98.
Born Albert Elias Maroone in Niagara Falls to Lebanese immigrants, he was one of seven children and grew up above his grandmother’s corner deli in Buffalo. He worked in maintenance at Republic Steel to help support the family and served in the Navy during World War II.
“He came from very meager means,” his son Michael told Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “He never had his own bed until he went to the Navy. He was the first person in his family to go to college. He accomplished a lot over very long odds.”
Returning from service, he earned a degree from Buffalo State Teachers College, where he met Katherine “Kit” Carroll, who grew up on a farm near Rochester. They were married in 1948.
Mr. Maroone borrowed from his family in 1955 to buy a small Ford dealership in Middleport, moved it to Transit Road in Clarence in 1962 and built it into the second-largest auto dealer in the Buffalo area.
He began visiting South Florida in the 1960s and decided to buy a Ford dealership in Miami in 1977.
“I was in the Bahamas on vacation with some friends and called my dad to see what was happening,” his son told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2003. “He told me, ‘Guess what? I bought a dealership in Miami. And guess what? You’re going to run it.’”
He added a Chevrolet franchise in 1981 and built a chain of six dealerships there. He was famous in South Florida for his television commercials, which featured the “Ghostbusters” theme. In the early 1990s, he turned over operations to his son.
The dealerships, which included Al Maroone Ford in Clarence, as well as the world’s fourth-largest General Motors dealer and the world’s third-biggest Dodge dealer, both in Florida, were sold to Republic Industries in 1997 and were the foundation for what is now AutoNation.
Mr. Maroone was a major supporter of South Florida sports teams and maintained a loyalty to the Buffalo Bills. With his son and a group of other entrepreneurs, he became a part owner of the Florida Panthers National Hockey League team in 2001, keeping the team in South Florida. He also enjoyed playing at Boca Rio Golf Club in Boca Raton, where he was a member.
He and his wife raised $100 million for the Cleveland Clinic of Florida and were instrumental in the construction of the Maroone Cancer Center in Weston, Fla., which was dedicated in 2015. He was chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Florida Leadership Board.
Locally, the Maroone family was a major contributor to the new Clarence Library, which opened in 2001.
His wife died in 2017.
In addition to his son, survivors include two daughters, Kathleen Maroone and Patricia Damoorgian; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Feb. 26 in St. Lucy Catholic Church, Highland Beach, Fla.