May 2004

Frederick R. Dentinger
50 Plus Years of Leadership

by Joseph H. RADDER

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We frequently hear people say that Buffalo needs more and better leadership. The kind of person they have in mind is Fred Dentinger, a leader in greater Buffalo for over fifty years.

Paging through his records, one sees his name in headlines over and over again on the front pages of Buffalo's newspapers. And this isn't because he's a publicity hound, far from it. It's strictly the result of being in the forefront when it comes to progressive ideas for this community.

Is he semi-retired? In reply to that question, he said "I seem to be going full blast every day." Fred Dentinger provides leadership talents to WNED-TV, FM, and AM as chairman of the Western New York Public Broadcasting Foundation He is on the Lay Advisory Council of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, is a lifetime member of the International Senate of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, is regional vice president of the U.S. Navy League, is a trustee of the Roswell Park Foundation, and is a prime mover in Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve for the U.S. Defense Department..

Fred Dentinger is best-known to this writer's generation for his history of civic leadership, as chairman of the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce, as president of the Greater Buffalo Advertising Club, as president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, as president of the Buffalo Bills Touchdown Club and Quarterback Club, a board member of the Erie County Industrial Agency, 1971 chairman of the Catholic Charities Appeal, the Board of Regents of Canisius College, and many more positions too numerous to list.

He was born in Buffalo on April 30, 1927. His father, a brewer at the Iroquois Brewing Company, died at the early age of 56. "He was awarded a scholarship at Canisius," Fred said, "but he couldn't accept it because he had to support his brothers and sisters." Dentinger's mother, Marie Unger, was from Vienna and, except for a stint of war work at the Hewitt Rubber Company during World War II, she was a full-time mother and housewife.

Dentinger attended elementary school at St. Ann's on Broadway at Emslie Street. "The school was run by Jesuit priests and Franciscan nuns and you really got a well-disciplined education." he says.

Fred went on to Technical High School and then to Canisius College. While in college, he worked for the old IRC, servicing and test-driving buses. Following in his father's footsteps, he also worked at Stein's Brewery while attending college.

He served in the Navy in the Pacific toward the end of World War II, and then was called back to the Navy during the Korean conflict in 1950 and 1951. He spent seven months in Korea on the USS Wm. R. Rush, a destroyer.   

After Korea, he went back to college where he majored in finance and earned a B.S. degrtee in Business Administration.

Fred Dentinger and Annettte Saele, a teacher in the Kenmore school system, were married in Buffalo in 1958. Annette died in December of 2002. Fortunately, he has family living here, even though his oldest son lives in Delaware. He has three children, William in Delaware, Mary Ellen and James in Western New York and eight grandchildren ranging in age from three to seventeen.

His career was in the insurance business from the very beginning. "My first job out of college was in insurance," he says. He spent a total of forty-six years in the business. His first job was with Aetna. Then he joined the Buffalo Fire Office Inc. in 1955, became an officer in 1957, and president in 1979. In 2001, the company merged with Brown and Brown Inc. Fred Dentinger now serves as an insurance consultant for Humphrey and Vandervoort Inc.

Fred Dentinger has a number of memories, not directly related to his business or civic leadership. roles. "I was one of Larry King's first interview guests when he was on the Mutual Radio network. We had just built the stadium and Miami was building theirs.That was the subject of the interview."

When he was chairman of the USS Buffalo committee, he spent four days underwater on the submarine.

He also remembers fondly his chairmanship of the first nationally-televised NFL football game from Buffalo. "It was 1956," he remembers, and the Redskins were playing the Lions. This, of course was during Buffalo's football drought, between the loss of the original Bills in 1949 and the start of the new AFL Bills in 1960. Fred Dentinger is still an avid football fan and attends every home game. "I'm a football nut" he says. And, of course, he plays golf in the summertime at the Country Club of Buffalo.

When we asked him for his views on Buffalo's future, he said "I'm an eternal optimist. The people here are our hope. We've been through four economic peaks and valleys over the years, and we've always come out on top." He sees the university's bioinformatics center as a catalyst for a great new wave of prosperity for western New York. "There are lots of bright signs," he says, "but our people are our greatest asset.".

Awards and honors have been many. He received the Catholic Church's highest lay award as a Knight of St. Gregory. He is also a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. In his younger days, he won the highest national Jaycee award as a Junior Chamber International Senator. He was selected for the Civic Award by the Greater Buffalo Association of Insurance agents, the Medaille Medal from Medaille College, where he served as a trustee, and is a member of the Life Insurance Million Dollar Roundtable.

Fred Dentinger certainly lives his philosophy , "While I'm here I've got to perform." Indeed, it's a good bet that he will be forever active and therefore will remain forever young.

Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit


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