June 2002

Carol & Carl Montante -
Philanthropists of the Year

by Joseph RADDER

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Little did they dream, growing up in Buffalo in the 1950s, that someday they would be blessed with the great success that has enabled them to be Buffalo’s Philanthropists of the Year. This was the honor Carol and Carl Montante received last November from the local chapter of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals.

Carl is the oldest of Michael and Georgia Montante’s five children. He has many pleasant memories of growing up on the west side of Buffalo. He remembers Friday evenings when he would sit on the front porch hoping that his grandmother, who lived across the street, would invite him to go to a movie with her. And often she did. He remembers sitting with his grandfather on a bench in Front Park watching the trains go by and how he would be afraid when a steam train would roar by and the air would be dark with smoke.

Carol was growing up at the same time in North Buffalo. She too was the oldest of a family of five. Carol’s Dad, Jack Lyons was in the steel business and they moved thirteen times in so many years. Eventually the Lyons family would settle down in Buffalo and Jack would become the founder of Gibraltar Steel. Carol went to Holy Angels Academy, where she graduated in 1960. 36 years later the Montantes would make possible the renovation of a lecture hall at Holy Angels Academy which is now named for them.

Carl has great high school memories too. He attended Canisius High School on Delaware Avenue where he also graduated in 1960. He fondly remembers Father Sturm and Father Sturtzer. Carl would serve in the late 1980s as Chairman of the Board at Canisius.

Carol went to D’Youville College where she earned a nursing degree, then to grad school at U.B. Carl spent four years at Canisius College, first as a pre-med student, then a Latin major, then as an Economics major. As sort of a lark, he took the Law School Aptitude test and passed with flying colors. The result was a three year course of study at U.B. Law School. He passed the bar exams in 1968 and spent a very short time practicing law before he decided he didn’t want to spend his life behind a desk.

Meanwhile, Carol had completed her college work and was practicing as a Psychiatric Nurse at Linwood-Bryant Hospital.

Carol and Carl were married at St. Mark’s Church in 1963. “We had a child every year Carl was in Law School,” Carol said. Their firstborn, Laura, now Mrs. Greg Zaepfel, works with her Dad at Uniland as Director of Corporate Relations.

The following year, Carl Jr. was born. “Duke,” as Carl calls him, “is now in charge of special projects at Uniland.” He is married to Wendy Daigler, who happens to be Carol and Carl’s godchild.

Next came Michael, named for his grandfather. He is married to Alexandra Llugany, daughter of the Montante’s close friends and travelling companions, Oscar and Carmen. Mike also works for Uniland and is involved in major transactions.

Tim, the youngest, is studying to be an airline pilot in New Hampshire.

Carl and Carol Montante have ten grandchildren.

Another reason Carl gave up the practice of law was a practical one. “We had three children, were living in a small apartment on Niagara Street, and I was only earning $70 a week,” Carl said. So he went to work with his Dad in the tire business. Soon thereafter he had the opportunity to purchase a wholesale tire business which began in a two-car garage on Military Road. The company soon outgrew that facility and purchased land for a new building in Tonawanda. After constructing a warehouse there for the tire business, another warehouse was built for lease, and then an apartment building in North Tonawanda called Carousel Park. This was the beginning of the huge real estate firm known today as Uniland.

Carol continued in Psychiatric Nursing as long as she could. “In those days you had to work weekends, and we had three children. Babysitters were hard to come by, so I had to give up the nursing profession,” she said. Later on, Carol went to Villa Maria College to study interior design, which continues to be her favorite avocation today. On the day we visited the Montante’s in Uniland’s beautiful offices, Carol was picking out wallpaper for “complete renovation” of one of their homes.
Has success spoiled the Montantes? Not at all. “We have been so very lucky,” Carol says, and Carl adds, “We have so much to be thankful for.” It’s obvious they are thinking of their family as well as their material gains when they say that. This feeling of gratitude is clearly Carl and Carol’s motivation for their philanthropic work. Significant gifts they have made include $1.5 million to Canisius College to enable the renovation of St. Vincent dePaul’s Church in the Carol and Carl Montante Cultural Center.

Carl is currently, or has in the past, served as a trustee or board member of twenty-six different organizations. Including Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Canisius College from 1998-2002. Carol has served on the D’Youville College Advisory Board and is currently very active in Catholic Charities. Between them they have received numerous awards over the years.

One would think that there was very little time left for recreation, but not so. “We love to go to the movies,” Carl added. “We ski, we travel a lot, of course there’s golf, squash and racquet ball and I love fiddling around the house.”

“We’ve been lucky,” Carl said, “but one of the biggest things we have to be thankful for is that all of our children and grandchildren live here in Western New York.”

From where we sit, Western New York is lucky too, to have the Montantes as loyal citizens who continually make such great contributions to this community. 

Joseph Radder is a freelance writer.


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