Emil Joseph DeDonato (1918 - 2018)

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Emil J. De Donato, 99, was called by his loving God to be with his mother, Fulvia, father, Raffaele, and siblings Alfred, Gussie, Mary, Rose and Ernie, on Feb. 24, 2018. He was "into his hundreth year" as he liked to say.
Emil was born Aug. 29, 1918, in Hackensack, N J. He was raised on Pink Street in homes his father built.
At Hackensack High School, he was president of the Class of 1936.
After high school, starting as an errand boy in a New York City Commercial Art Studio, he worked his way up to assistant production manager in an advertising company until he was drafted into the U.S. Army on Jan. 28, 1941, 11 months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was assigned to the Headquarters Company, 47th Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.
Trained as amphibious combat infantry soldiers, the 9th Infantry Division was the first American Division to see action when it invaded Africa on Nov. 8, 1942. Emil volunteered to go in with the initial invasion troops.
His job was to make contact with the Command Post Ship located approximately 7 miles off the coast of Safi, Africa, to provide intel for the invasion. For his quick action in establishing communications, he was awarded the Bronze Star. DeDonato went on to fight all through Africa's French Morocco, Tunisia, then into Sicily where he received a cluster to his bronze star for valor under fire.
On Nov. 23, 1943, the 9th Infantry Division was sent to England to prepare for the invasion of France. DeDonato, as message center chief, went into battle June 10, 1944, (D-Day plus-4) landing on Utah Beach in Normandy, France. Once the main German resistance was crushed, he fought all through France, Belgium and into Germany where he met the Russians on April 26, 1944, 11 days prior to the end of the war.
After his honorable discharge on June 24, 1945, he returned to his advertising job in New York City as a junior account executive.
In 1948, he and a partner started Decon Advertising in NYC.
On Feb. 4, 1951, he married Audrey M. Steinberger who was his wife, rock, love, card partner, dance partner and "Pigeon" for the next 67 years.
Together, they became a family with three sons, Ralph (January 1952), Robert (December 1952) and Richard (March 1955).
In 1952, he set out on his own with Emil J. DeDonato Advertising Inc. His business grew from a little advertising studio on Madison Ave, NYC, to include an art studio, an advertising agency and a film production company. Emil was a pioneer in cell animation and built a "pin" board for his animators to use while creating short story films for his client, Sealright Containers, called: "The Ice-Cream Dream." He was so proud of this. He eventually moved his business to Paterson, N.J.
Emil loved to do things. Mostly he loved being with his beautiful wife, Audrey. Playing cards. Taking her places. They were always the first and best dancers on the dance floor.
He loved building things with his brother, Alfred, and golfing and playing cards with his brother, Ernie, and buddies, Jimmy Blundo, Hank Brancato and Joe Pedi.
He loved his vegetable garden, composting, nature, Earth, God, country and family.
Emil was a tough, but devoted father. He made his children's interests his interests. He taught them to love God. He preached the Golden Rule. He taught them, and many of their friends, how to use tools. Most important, he taught them that all men were equal and to treat them that way.
After owning his business, he went to work as the advertising manager of Agfa-Gevaert. a Belgian-German film company in Hackensack, N.J.
In 1974, Emil "retired" to Florida. In 1978, he successfully received his real estate license from Central Florida College in Ocala. He became known as "Mr. Dee" and worked as a real estate associate before "retiring" again in 1995.
Emil was involved with his church, St. John the Baptist, helping build it from a trailer to a thriving church community and rebuild it after a fire.
He promoted and worked every event.
Emil was also the treasurer of the Florida Chapter of the 9th Infantry Division Reunion Committee. He helped get the library built in Dunnellon.
He was the historian for his community, Rainbow Lakes Estates, and loved playing poker with the Men's Club every Friday night. The list goes on.
Emil always had a lot on his "to-do" list, he loved lists.
Emil is survived by his loving wife, Audrey; son, Ralph and his wife, Rosemary, and their children, Emily (Joe), Ralph Jr. (Megan), Catherine (Charles), and Joseph; son, Robert; and son, Rick and his love, Nancy, and his children, Alexis and Matt. They have three great-grandchildren, Sofia (Emily), Ben (Ralph, Jr.) and Julia (Catherine) He inspired so many. He gave a bit to everybody.
Emil was surrounded in his gardens by vegetables and flowers throughout his life.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the church that loves and supports he and Audrey to this day, St. John the Baptist Catholic Community, 7525 S. US Hwy 41, Dunnellon, FL 34432 A funeral Mass was Wednesday, Feb. 28, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Dunnellon.
Following the funeral Mass, his family took Emil to his final resting place at Florida National Cemetery, 6502 S.W. 102nd Ave., Bushnell, FL 33513.
Expressions of sympathy can be left at robertsofdunnellon.com.

Published in Riverland News on Mar. 1, 2018
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