As a staff sergeant, Mark A. Dondero fought alongside fellow soldiers in the Pacific during World War II. As a husband, dad and grandfather, he was the man with the big smile and generous heart who would go to any lengths for his family.
Dondero, who lived in Wheatley Heights, died Tuesday after a long struggle with a number of illnesses. He was 89.
His son, Mark Dondero Jr., described his dad, a former bank officer, as a model husband, father and grandfather who was so devoted to his three grandsons that he insisted on attending their sporting events even when he was in ill health.
"He would travel anywhere to see any sport they were playing -- baseball, basketball. He would sit there in his wheelchair. He was a proud grandfather," the son said, adding that his father's devotion to his family was matched by his dedication to his church.
Dondero was a decades-long member of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Roman Catholic Church in Wyandanch, where he and his wife, Anne, were active in church events.
He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 6556, and a past grand knight of the Catholic grassroots organization. The council is affiliated with the church.
For nearly 40 years, Dondero worked in the banking industry, his family said, starting at Franklin National Bank in Mineola in the 1950s and moving on from there to the National Bank of North America, working as a compliance officer and in accounting.
As important as all of those aspects of his life were to him, none were more enduring, Dondero Jr. said, than his parents' marriage. He said his mother, Anne, was the light of his father's life. "He knew her his entire life. They grew up together on the Lower East Side of Manhattan," he said.
Anne Dondero said she was only a child when she first saw the man who would become her husband. And even though they didn't attend the same schools -- he went to La Salle Military Academy on Long Island -- she was still aware of the striking cadet.
"He was so handsome in his uniform," she said.
Mark Anthony Dondero was born July 20, 1926, to Anthony Mark Dondero and Mary Biggio Dondero and grew up in a largely Italian neighborhood on the Lower East Side. After graduating from La Salle, Dondero entered the Army in 1944 at age 18 and remained enlisted until 1946. He and Anne were married in 1952, the year after he graduated from Fordham University.
The Donderos had three children, but Mark Anthony Jr. said that he is the only survivor. His sister, Maria, died last year of breast cancer at age 57. His brother, Christopher, died of pneumonia in 1990 at age 30.
In addition to his son and wife, Dondero is survived by a daughter-in-law, Diane, and three grandsons, Mark, John and Paul Dondero. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Interment will follow at St. Charles Cemetery, East Farmingdale.