Capital Region -- Auto dealer Anthony J. DePaula Jr. is being recalled for his love of cars and of equine sports following his death last week.
DePaula, who was 75, grew up in Schenectady on Foster Avenue in the Goose Hill neighborhood, according to one online tribute, and had lived in the Saratoga Springs area for many years. He died of a heart attack on Oct. 16 while visiting New York City. Funeral services were private.
"Mr.D, as he was affectionately known to us, touched so many people in the Capital Region community and beyond," DePaula Chevrolet posted on its Facebook page. "His infectious energy and generosity made an impact on every person he encountered and will be sorely missed by our staff, our families and his many friends."
DePaula attended Schenectady schools, including Linton High School, and he then attended the University of Houston. He played football in both high school and college, according to his obituary.
He opened his first car dealership, DePaula Chevrolet, in 1980. Within a few years he expanded it on Central Avenue in Colonie, and kept growing from there. At the time of his death, the DePaula Family Auto Group had a series of dealerships along Central Avenue selling Chevrolet, Ford, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Mazda, as well as selling used vehicles. DePaula was named a "dealer of the year" nine consecutive times by General Motors.
Locally, DePaula served on the board of the Saratoga Auto Museum, located in Saratoga Spa State Park, which is devoted to both the general and local history of the auto industry. He was known as a vintage car enthusiast.
"From humble beginnings in Schenectady -- having opened his first auto dealership in the Electric City nearly forty years ago before moving to Albany --Tony was a consummate gentleman and a brilliant businessman," the museum said in a news release. "Tony generously gave to the Museum in ways both large and small. Most recently, he provided a Maserati Ghilbi that was used for the Museum's recent sweepstakes, in which proceeds went directly to our educational programming and distracted driving safety initiative. His impact will be felt by the lives saved by training young drivers on being safe behind the wheel."
DePaula also served on the boards of the New York State Auto Dealers Association and the General Motors Dealers Council.
He also loved horses, and was a supporter of Saratoga Polo. He played high-goal polo with some of the top players in the world, recalled Jim Rossi, the managing partner in Saratoga Polo.
DePaula started sponsoring the DePaula Chevrolet Cup in 1984, and he and three other Capital Region businessman bought the polo field on Bloomfield Road in Greenfield in 1994, though they later sold the property to polo Hall of Fame member William Ylvisker.
"Tony was a mentor and a friend, and he was largely responsible for introducing me and my partner Mike Bucci to the polo community," said Rossi, who bought the polo field from Ylvisker, with Bucci, 2004.
DePaula was also a season box holder at Saratoga Race Course, and bred and raised thoroughbreds in the high lands on the east side of Saratoga Lake. "He owned horses and raced them and was a bigger supporter of Equine Advocates, the horse rescue organization," Rossi said.
Rossi estimated that over the last five years, Tony raised more than $100,000 for various local and regional charities.
"Tony was a kind and generous man, always willing to donate to various charitable functions and organizations from local Little League teams to nationwide organizations like the American Cancer Society," according to his obituary.
He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Susan Cassella DePaula, his daughter, Kara DePaula Lynch, and four grandsons. In recent years, Kara Lynch has become the public face of the dealerships.