DeBenedetti - Albert Of Tonawanda, Twp. September 3, 2020 at age 71, after a long illness. Beloved husband and best friend of Patricia (Nespal); loving father of Summer (Jack) Morin and Michael Angelo; devoted grandfather of Adyson, Sophia, Makenna and Davina; dear brother of the late James. Also survived by family in Ontario, Canada and his four best friends that were there until the end, Marshall Goldstein, Irwin Meesch, Larry Raskin and Richard Spiker. Family will receive friends at the KOLANO FUNERAL HOME 396 Amherst Street (near Grant) Sunday, 1-5PM. Please be mindful that face coverings and social distancing are required and that capacity restrictions may delay entry. Albert was an Erie County Legislator for 14 years. Donations in Albert’s memory to the Northwest Buffalo Community Center, 155 Lawn Ave., Buffalo, NY 14207 are preferred. Please share your online condolences at www.KOLANOFUNERALHOME.com
Obituary Published in the Buffalo News, written by Sandra Tan:
Albert Debenedetti, a 14-year Erie County legislator and high-profile political player in county government during some of its most tumultuous days, died last week of renal failure complications. He was 71.
A colorful Buffalo Democrat remembered by fellow Democratic legislators for "his tenacious floor fights," Mr. DeBenedetti often played a pivotal role as a wheeler and dealer during the administration of Republican County Executive Joel Giambra, a former Democrat.
Born in Hamilton, Ont., Mr. Debenedetti settled in Buffalo's Riverside neighborhood with his family in the late 1950s. He served as a patronage hiring czar under former Democratic County Executive Dennis Gorski and as assistant deputy commissioner for the Erie County Board of Elections before joining the County Legislature in 1991.
As a Sixth District legislator, he represented Black Rock, Riverside and parts of the West Side and North Buffalo over the years as district lines were redrawn and the Legislature shrank in size.
He became a swing vote in the Legislature, often siding with Republican colleagues, until he gained the chairmanship of the Legislature in 2002 and headed a new "working majority" that shifted majority control to the Republican caucus despite the Democrats holding a technical majority.
He played a pivotal role as a Giambra ally but returned to the Democratic caucus in 2003 after breaking with Giambra over budget issues, particularly Giambra's red-and-green budget proposals, which resulted in county government's fiscal chaos. Mr. Debenedetti became chairman of the Finance and Management Committee.
He served as a stalwart defender of the separation of powers between the County Executive's Office and the County Legislature, researching issues, taking controversial stands and tackling issues in a way that sometimes created friction with colleagues and made him unpopular with his party and with the Giambra administration.
"You guys got to see him in action," said his wife of 36 years, Patricia. "He always did his homework. I still, to this day in my house, have thousands of pages from when he was a legislator, of budget books. He went through the budget books line by line. He would research for days and days and days."
But while a fierce political player, Mr. Debenedetti was respected and highly regarded by his constituents and beloved by his family, treating everyone with kindness, his wife said.
"Al separated his work from his private life," she said. "He was the sweetest man you every wanted to meet. He was so loving. His family had become the most important thing in his life."
Debenedetti left the Legislature in 2005, choosing not to run for re-election. He briefly considered another run for his seat in 2007 but ultimately withdrew his petition, choosing instead to refocus his energies on his family.
The Erie County Legislature's Democratic Majority Caucus released a statement regarding the former legislator's passing, saying, "His 14-year tenure in this body proves his popularity and effort did not go unnoticed by the citizens he so proudly served."
After retirement, Mr. Debenedetti moved to the Town of Tonawanda in 2009 and continued to deal with kidney problems. When his kidney failed – he was born with only one, much to his surprise late in life – he remained conscious and in good spirits until passing peacefully last week, Mrs. Debenedetti said.
Mr. Debenedetti is survived by his wife, the former Patricia Nespal; a son, Michael; a daughter, Summer Morin; and four grandchildren.