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Victor M. Colonna, 82, M&T banker with an eye for successful restaurants

Victor M. Colonna, 82, M&T banker with an eye for successful restaurants

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July 16, 1938 — Aug. 13, 2020

As a longtime successful M&T banker, Victor M. Colonna had a knack for financing successful restaurant ventures.

His talent at spotting quality eateries had its roots in his heritage. Mr. Colonna's father, Marino Colonna, an immigrant from Abruzzo, Italy, was an executive chef in several renowned Buffalo restaurants operated by the DiGiulio family, his cousins.

"Because of his knowledge base, based on what his family did, my father was able to recognize good operators and people who were going to do the right thing," said Mr. Colonna's son, Victor M. Colonna Jr.

Mr. Colonna worked with owners to arrange M&T funding for Oliver's, Siena, 800 Maple, Trattoria Aroma, Mothers, Pranzo and Jimmy Mac's, his son said. "He was known as the banker who would fund successful restaurants," Victor Colonna Jr. said.

Victor M. Colonna died Aug. 13, 2020, in the Hospice Buffalo inpatient unit in Cheektowaga after an illness of several months. The Williamsville resident was 82.

He was born in Corning, the middle child of Marino and Mary Pacifico Colonna. After holding jobs in Western New York and Columbus, Ohio, Marino Colonna and his family moved to Buffalo so he could work in the restaurants owned by his cousins, the DiGiulio family. He eventually became an executive chef, working at such places as the Thirty One Club and Victor Hugo's Wine Cellar, now the Mansion on Delaware.

Mr. Colonna grew up on the West Side, attending Holy Angels School, Lafayette High School and the University at Buffalo, where he graduated in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. At UB in 1957, Mr. Colonna was initiated into the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity's Epsilon Chapter. The fraternity, founded in 1914 at Syracuse University, evolved from an exclusive Italian society known as "Il Circolo Italiano."

He served in the U.S. Army National Guard from 1956 to 1967.

In 1970, he began working in commercial lending for M&T Bank Corp., where he became a vice president and portfolio manager and a founding team member of the Business Banking Division, working in Buffalo and Amherst. 

Mr. Colonna was gracious, respectful and beloved by his customers, his son said. "He had an instinctual approach to lending, focusing on the customer's integrity, character, work ethic, and expertise when it came to making business financing decisions."

Mr. Colonna was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration for his lending skills. In 1995, he told The News, "We've really had a marvelous relationship with SBA. M&T Bank made $13.5 million in SBA loans last year in Greater Buffalo."

In 1991, Mr. Colonna was honored at a reception in the White House Rose Garden when one of his customers, Brett C. Begley of ABC Hardware and Rental, was selected as the Small Business Administration's "National Young Entrepreneur of the Year."

Mr. Colonna retired from M&T in 2010, but he remained well-known, his son said.

"I'm Victor Jr., so throughout my whole life I've had the blessing of hearing, so many times, 'Are you the banker's son?' " said his son. "My heart is very full because of that."

Mr. Colonna was actively involved with St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, which his sons attended, serving as chairman of the inaugural 1980 LaSallian Dinner Auction, which remains the school's largest fundraising event.

Mr. Colonna was also a longtime member of the Saturn Club, where he enjoyed both personal and professional activities and served on the club’s finance committee. In his free time, he enjoyed family get-togethers, gourmet cooking and collecting fine wines.

An avid reader and World War II historian, he was a fan of the Great American Songbook, especially as sung by Frank Sinatra, and enjoyed playing his baby grand piano. "Known for his sartorial elegance," his son said, Mr. Colonna was a dedicated longtime customer of Peller & Mure and O'Connell's in Buffalo, as well as Paul Stuart in New York City.

Mr. Colonna was a parishioner and longtime supporter of St. Louis Catholic Church in Buffalo.

His sister Beatrice died Sept. 26, 2015.

Besides his son, Mr. Colonna is survived by his wife, Dolores L. Geraci Colonna; another son, Marc Colonna; a sister, Norma Cleary; longtime friend Diane DeCamilla; five grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Joseph University Catholic Church, 3269 Main St.

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