Devorris’ passing leaves ‘cavernous void’
Businessman remembered for his vision, generosity
Altoona and Blair County have lost one their biggest supporters and businessmen.
Donald Devorris, 83, chairman and founder of the Blair Companies, died Thursday night at his Altoona home after a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Among the many awards for business excellence and community service, few captured the essence of Devorris’ career as well as the 2005 Blair County Chamber’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Business Excellence and the 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst & Young.
“Don loved Altoona and told all his big-city friends it was Utopia,” said his son, Philip Devorris, Blair Companies president and CEO. “He spent years working to improve the hospital system, Penn State Altoona, rebuild downtown and working with (Altoona-Blair County Development Corp.) to support the business community and secure local jobs. He was a great connector and always worked for win-win solutions. He never cared about recognition or personal gain as long as progress was made.”
Devorris founded and led the chamber’s executive roundtable for decades, following in the style of his father, Michael, of seeking cooperation among everyone in the community.
“He was happy to know Altoona came out of Act 47 and wants nothing more than for his friends, family and employees to continue to make our community strong,” Philip Devorris said.
Longtime business partner Ralph J. Albarano said Devorris was the epitome of a gentleman and businessman.
“He had his priorities in place — his family, his synagogue and his community. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better as a partner in all of our ventures together,” Albarano said. “He was very fair in all of his dealings with me and anyone else who knew him. He was the definition of an entrepreneur. He was a great person who will surely be missed.”
Lee Hite, president of The Hite Company, was a longtime friend and business associate.
“He was the ultimate entrepreneur and was involved in many business ventures throughout the county and Pennsylvania,” Hite said. “He was very engaged and knowledgeable. People had great respect for his business acumen. As a friend, he was very fun loving and had a great sense of humor. We had a great friendship built over 50 years.”
Steve Sheetz, chairman of the Sheetz Family Council, called Devorris “a dear friend.”
“He was the heart of the community,” Sheetz said. “He was so engaged. He was always with ABCD trying to attract new businesses. He had a numbers mind, but he was such a people person. All in all, he was always about making the community a better place. He was an Altoid through and through.”
Longtime local developer Maurice Lawruk was involved in a number of business ventures with Devorris.
“He was the best — the best partner I ever had,” Lawruk said. “The whole community is going to miss him.”
Marty Marasco, retired ABCD president/CEO, said he worked with Devorris on many projects during his time at ABCD Corp. and its predecessor, Altoona Enterprises.
The building ABCD occupies is named the Devorris Center.
“There are very few people who had the same fortitude that Don Devorris had,” Marasco said. “He was so caring. He cared about the community in a very big way. He was involved in many deals and transactions. He was involved in many organizations and gave back through his donations. He was a mentor and friend for so many people. His efforts will be hard to replace.”
Devorris’ passing leaves a cavernous void for the business community and the community in general, said President/CEO Joe Hurd of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.
“His impact on the local economy was extreme. No one understood business more thoroughly than Don Devorris,” Hurd said. “His generosity was unparalleled. Very few had any idea of the number of people he helped. That’s the way he wanted it. And, perhaps just as importantly, Don was just a nice man. He had a great sense of humor and a playful nature that ingratiated him to people throughout the community.”
Altoona Mayor Matt Pacifico said Devorris will be missed.
“He will always be remembered for his generosity to the area. He was never shy to help with different projects and people who needed things done. He was always there and willing to lend a hand,” Pacifico said.
Devorris has a long connection to Penn State — Penn State’s Downtown Devorris Center is also named after him and his wife, Nancy. In December, 2006, the couple made a
$1 million commitment to Penn State Altoona, one of the largest in the history of the college.
Devorris served on the Penn State Altoona Advisory Board for more than 30 years.
In 2015, he was honored with Penn State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor given by Penn State to alumni whose “personal lives, professional achievements and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.”
In 2000, he received the Alumni Fellow Award, the most prestigious award given by the Penn State Alumni Association.
In addition, Devorris received Penn State Altoona’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 2010 for his significant professional achievements.
Dean and Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry said Devorris leaves an indelible mark on the community, Penn State Altoona, Penn State University and on countless lives, including her own.
“He led with grace and aplomb and had an undeniable air of confidence and conviction and a zest for life,” she said. “He was always there to lend his wise counsel and support. I considered him my good friend, mentor and advocate.
“Don knew how to get things done. He was a doer, a builder, a visionary, who accomplished much in a no-nonsense, ‘let’s get this done’ kind of way. I admired his boundless energy, enthusiasm and his penchant for focusing on the future.”
A service in Devorris’ memory will be held at
10 a.m. Sunday at Agudath Achim Synagogue, 1306 17th St., followed by interment at Agudath Achim Cemetery.
Friends will also be received after a short Shiva service on Monday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Agudath Achim Synagogue.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.