Son of a bowling legend and father of two of the better bowlers in the Capital Region, Tom Donato was no slouch on the lanes.
In fact, in his prime, Donato was among the best, and he continued to shine as a bowling tournament promoter and coach until he died of a heart attack late Tuesday night at age 65.
A Schenectady Bowling Association Hall of Famer, Donato was the son of Joe Donato, arguably the greatest bowler in Schenectady history. His sons, Tommy Jr. and Joel, continue to perform extremely well on the lanes, and all three were bowling on the same team in the DV Greco Insurance City League Monday nights at Towne Bowling Academy.
Donato was the coach of the Christian Brothers Academy bowling team, which won the Section II Class A title Wednesday in his name. He was also the former co-owner of Sportsman’s Bowl and was the tournament director for the popular Joe Donato Scratch Singles tournament, which begins qualifying Feb. 21.
“My father was definitely lost in the shuffle sometimes when compared to my grandfather,” said Tommy Donato Jr. “Bowling with my grandfather on television, taking his yearly trips to the ABC tournaments and then bowling with me and my brother together in the City League were probably his favorite bowling accomplishments.”
The lifelong New York Yankees fan was quite the prankster and loved to kid his bowling colleagues. He never backed down from a fight, either verbally or physically.
“I knew Tommy all my life,” said veteran bowler Hugo McGroty, also a SBA Hall of Famer who is retiring as the Section II bowling coordinator. “I got the news about Tom at 8:45 a.m. [Wednesday], and we were all saddened. The funny thing is that we heard from one of his bowlers that he was sick, because the bowler was going to pick him up for practice [Tuesday night], but there was an ambulance at the house.
“Tom was an awesome bowler, a Hall of Famer. He had a lot of the same traits as his father, Joe, and he ran some great tournaments.”
Len Reyngoudt, another veteran bowler, competed with Donato for several years, especially on the yearly trips to the ABCs.
“It’s hard to believe he’s gone,” said Reyngoudt. “I bowled with him so many times down through the years, and he was extremely competitive. We always had fun when he was around. He’ll be missed.”
Fellow Mont Pleasant High School graduate Brian Brown was also a lifelong friend of Donato.
“We both grew up at Mont Pleasant, and he always kidded me that I was the best athlete at Mont Pleasant,” Brown said. “I’ve been bowling at his father’s house at Sportsman’s since they opened the place in 1963.
“This was a shock to all of us.“We had gotten extremely close all these years. He was definitely a character and one of a kind. He used to love to bust my chops, and I wasn’t the only one he would bust on. We were both huge Yankee fans as well. What he and his father did for the sport of bowling shouldn’t be forgotten. He used to bring in so many great bowlers from out of town to bowl in those tournaments. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and in many ways, he did.”
Marty Capullo Jr., proprietor at Towne Bowling Academy, said he saw Donato almost every day.
“Tom would come to my place and eat popcorn after he came from the gym,” Capullo said. “The Donato name is huge in our area. He’ll be missed — as much as a pain in the [butt] as he could be sometimes. He was great for bowling, and everybody respected him.”
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