When Thomas Imperatore was project manager for a Chicago skyscraper that would eclipse the Empire State Building as the tallest in the world, a client expressed reservations about Imperatore's enthusiastic, straight-ahead style, and wondered if someone else might take his place.
A colleague at the Cushman & Wakefield development firm where Imperatore was a legendary presence suggested otherwise, one of Imperatore's associates at the firm recalled.
"He said 'you can lose me, you can lose any of seven other key people, but if you lose Thomas Imperatore, you'll never get the project of your dreams,' " said Carol Usher, a Cushman & Wakefield administrator.
Imperatore, whose construction projects in addition to the Sears Tower included such iconic buildings as the Bank of America Center in San Francisco, the Chicago Board of Trade, and RexCorp Plaza in Uniondale, died Friday at his Port Washington North home. He was 88.
Imperatore was born in the Bronx, the youngest of 10 children of Italian immigrant parents. He graduated from the New York Merchant Marine Academy in 1944, and served as a chief engineer aboard a cargo ship at the end of World War II, according to his son, Walter Imperatore, of Lake Ronkonkoma.
He married his wife, Florence, in 1945, and went to work in Manhattan as a building engineer. He joined Cushman & Wakefield a few years later, working his way up through the ranks to eventually take control of all U.S. project development.
Imperatore, who moved to Port Washington North in 1961, also helped shape development within the village as chairman of the planning board, said former Mayor Tom Pellegrino. Pellegrino said Imperatore was instrumental in the creation of the promenade in the village's Thomas J. Pellegrino Waterfront Park.
In addition to his wife and son Walter, he is survived by sons Alan, of Port Washington, and John, of Fair Haven, N.J., and a daughter, Diane DeLouker, of Glen Cove.