July 2001

Michael J. Billoni


by John BINDER

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Michael J. Billoni knows the exact moment a miracle changed his life. It was Thursday, September 17, 1992 at 4:00 p.m.

At that precise moment he was riding his 10-speed bicycle on the backroads of Point Abino, Ontario Canada when a car, traveling at 65 mph with a drunk driver behind the wheel, struck him from behind. He was thrown into the car’s windshield before the driver took off, throwing him some 60 feet on a gravel road into a metal news box.

The bicycle helmet Mike was wearing saved his life. A series of miracles were responsible for him being transported over the Peace Bridge late that afternoon and into the Erie County Medical Center’s trauma unit. Immediately, the medical team, led by Dr. John LaDuca began 17 hours of surgery for a multitude of near fatal injuries.

“I fully understand I am living today as a true miracle from God,” Michael says with authority. “The doctors told my family I was minutes from death. After I came through surgery, they were worried I would never recover to do much in life. Through the grace of God and hours and hours of physical therapy over the past 8 1/2 years I have been able to get on with my life.”

Michael was the vice president/general manager of the Buffalo Bisons when the accident occurred.

Today, he is founder and principal of Billoni Associates, an independent communications company. Last October, he authored and managed the publication of “Robert E. Rich—Memoirs of an Innovator,” the biography of the founder of Rich Products Corp.

Currently, he is working on projects for a variety of clients. His three favorites are advising the Triple A baseball franchise in Fresno, California; handling the promotions and publicity for Buffalo’s undefeated heavyweight boxer, “Baby Joe” Mesi; and orchestrating the marketing efforts for the Billoni family business, Colvin Cleaners and Colvin Draperies.

However, whether he is on an airplane traveling once a month to Fresno, at the gym watching “Baby Joe” work out or at his mom’s house for the family’s Monday Night Pasta dinner, Michael does not forget the divine intervention that saved his life.

“My first memory of the accident was five days after it occurred,” he recalls. “There were all kinds of tubes stuck into me, my left ankle and right wrist were in casts from being fractured, my right shoulder was fractured, a bandage was around my head, I had two black eyes and my back was a sad sight and extremely sore.

“I hurt a lot but my attention was on the ring finger of my right hand, where my father (who passed away August 23, 1998) had placed a finger rosary during surgery. My mom and dad were so happy to see me open my eyes. They couldn’t wait to tell me how many people were praying for me. My dad said it was another miracle for the finger rosaries he and a few of his friends gave out to everyone they met.”

Michael, who lives and works in Buffalo, is the oldest of Anthony and Josephine Billoni’s three children. His brother, Paul, is president of Colvin Cleaners and Colvin Draperies. He and his wife, Cyndee, reside in Kenmore with their children, Christopher and Erica. The youngest brother, Anthony, works at the Creative Education Foundation in Buffalo and stars on Channel 7’s Off Beat Cinema Show each Saturday night. He and his wife, Kim, reside in Buffalo and they are expecting their first child in July.

“I truly believe my life was saved for a reason,” Michael explains. “I thank God everyday for my health and I now pray for others who are recovering from illness or disease.”

While Michael keeps himself busy managing a variety of projects for Billoni Associates, he has learned the importance of balancing time for his family and the community.

“The most important person in my life today is God with my family a close second. We still continue a tradition my dad began of Monday night pasta at mom’s,” he continues. “Being active in my community, the church and helping kids is also very important to me.”

Michael may not be as visible publicly as he was when he led the Bisons but he certainly hasn’t slowed down any. The big difference now is that he is much more focused.



John Binder is a freelance writer.

 

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