Joseph Louis Donofro
May 22, 1924 – August 31, 2010
Joseph Donofro, known affectionately by family and friends as Joe, was born on May 22, 1924, to his parents Mary and Joseph Donofro Sr., who had immigrated to Niagara Falls, New York, from Italy, earlier in the century. Joe was the oldest of four siblings–three sisters and a brother, Mary Ann Fernandez, Barbara Pucci, Virginia Donofro and Paul Donofro.
As an upstate New Yorker, some of his favorite pastimes in his childhood years included getting out on the ice for a game of hockey, playing pranks on his friends and visiting Latina’s Italian Market and Di Camilla’s bakery around the corner from his home. He attended Niagara Falls High School, graduating in June 1942, in a class of young men and women who would soon find themselves sent overseas to war.
Drafted into the army in February, 1943, after basic training Joe was stationed halfway around the world in Burma, India, where he served as an aerial photographer with the 2nd Air Commando Group and was awarded a Bronze Star. When hostilities ended in 1945, he volunteered to remain in India on special duty, stationed in the city of Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. He returned to the United States the following year and before the month was out had married Harriette Stone, on April 27, 1946. Together, they became the proud and happy parents of three children Joseph Donofro Jr., Melanie Carol Donofro and Daphne Donofro Walker.
Fulfilling a strong desire to continue his education and enter a profession, Joe enrolled in the School of Architecture at the University of Florida in 1947, graduating Magna Cum Laude in February, 1952, and immediately accepted the offer of a position at an architectural firm in Augusta, Georgia, and later transferred to a second firm in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was promoted to the position of Chief Architect. In the summer of 1954, Joe made the decision that would define his career, and anchor him in a community that he and Harriette would call home for the rest of their lives.
That place was Dothan, Alabama, and the decision was to open his own firm, Donofro and Associates, the first architectural firm in the area, with the encouragement and support of three local businessmen, Harry Hall, Wallace Malone Sr., and Richmond Flowers. Eventually Joe’s only son, Joe Donofro III, would join the firm as well.
Joe was a man dedicated to helping others and making his community a better place for everyone who lived there, and his life was a case study in civic responsibility. An active leader in his professional affiliations locally as well as regionally and nationally, he also served as the President of Dothan’s Chamber of Commerce, and was a familiar face on a variety of municipal committees. In 1965, the Chamber saluted Joe with a special award for outstanding service in the field of industrial development. Appointed to the Board of Directors of the Dothan Rotary Club, he was elected the Club’s president in 1962, and in that position of leadership organized the Dothan Rotary Children’s Foundation, which built and now owns the Rehab Center and Children’s Clinic facilities. He served as its corporate chairman for six years and was a board member for many more.
In 1982, the Rotary Club honored his leadership by electing him a Paul Harris Fellow for his distinguished service, and further elected him Governor for District 6880 in 1988. In 1994 the National Rotary Foundation Organization awarded him the Citation for Meritorious Service and later Joe was awarded a second “Jewel” to add to his Paul Harris Fellow Award by Rotary District 6880 for his work on the Rotary Foundation in 1995. One of the most honorable awards Joe received was the Prestigious Distinguish Service Award by the Board of Trustees of the Rotary Foundation. This award is given to only 50 Rotarians each year out of 1,200,000 Rotarians worldwide. It is the first recognition for such an award in this Alabama District. Joe also gave his time and energy to the community by serving on the Easter Seal Society’s State Board, the Tri Rivers Development Association, the Alabama Society of Architects, the Dothan Section of AIA, and was president of the Montgomery Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He also worked tirelessly with the United Fund, the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, and was a charter member of The Haven, charted to help persons in need of alcohol rehabilitation.
No community anywhere on earth can thrive and grow without men like Joe Donofro, a true son of Dothan, and in the final years of his life he devoted much of his passion for the city to the restoration of its downtown core. In 1989 the firm had the option of relocating from its South Oates Street location to land along 231 North behind Northside Mall. Instead, Joe and his son made a critical long-term decision to purchase, renovate and move into the old Porter-Farmer building now known by residents as Foster Corner. It was a decision that spurred ahead the revitalization of downtown Dothan, preserving the city’s character for the next generation.
Joe never lost his enthusiasm for the two gifts he had received from his military service in World War Two–a love of photography and a lust to travel and see the world. Over the years he journeyed to England, Wales, Ireland, France, Sicily, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Japan and South Africa. He especially enjoyed the country of his heritage, Italy, and often visited his relatives in the village of Lucito. One of his greatest joys was taking his father on a camera safari to South Africa’s extraordinary national parks. He should also be remembered as a person who loved to read, and a guy with a pretty good swing out on the golf course. He was, as the author Tom Wolfe might say, a man in full.
Joe is survived by his wife of 64 years, Harriette Stone Donofro, his sisters Mary Ann Fernandez and Barbara Pucci of Niagara Falls New York, and Paul Donofro Sr. of Marianna Florida, his son Joe Donofro (Lisa Paul Donofro) and their children Joseph and Natalie, his daughters Melanie Carol Donofro of Tallahassee, Florida and Daphne Donofro Walker ( Robert Walker) and their two children Melanie Catherine and Olivia Marie of Montgomery, Alabama, many nieces and nephews across the country and his special friend Sam, a Springer Spaniel of Dothan, Alabama who was his devoted companion for many years. He was preceded in death by his parents Joseph and Mary Donofro of Niagara Falls and his sister Virginia Donofro also from Niagara Falls.
Honorary Pall Bearers include Dr. Fred Garrett, Steffen Doerstling, Terry Pierce and Lisa Springer.
The family would like to recognize as posthumous Pall Bearers the following close friends of Joe’s: Dr. Max Weldon, Eustace Bishop, Andy Kosan, Harry Hall and William “Bill” Cathell.
The family would like to express their deepest gratitude to the caregivers of Beautiful Beginnings who loved and cared for “Papa” till the end. Kintenia Harris, Andria Vickers, Chelmek Jackson, Nell Johnson, Vanessa Johnson, and Rubbies Bechum we are forever grateful for all you did to keep him comfortable and happy in his final days.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations are made to the organizations most important to Joe.
The Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center, 795 Ross Clark Circle, Dothan, Al 3603-0022
The Downtown Group, PO Box 1005, Dothan Alabama, 36302
Wiregrass Hospice, PO Drawer 2127, Dothan Alabamn, 36302
Visitation will be on Monday, September 6, 2010 from 9:30 to 11:00 am at Byrd Funeral Home Chapel and the Memorial Service will start at 11:00 am.
Byrd Funeral Home on West Main Street (334) 793-3003 is in charge of arrangements.