Frank J. Gaziano, 92: Successful businessman, funded Deering Oaks bandstand

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Frank J. Gaziano, 92, died peacefully at home on Jan. 16 after a long illness.

On May 2, 1917, he was born to Sal and Madeline (Schiclione) Gaziano and raised in Waltham, Mass.

While atending Waltham High School, he established several athletic records in football, and received a full scholarship to Holy Cross College where he was named an All-American football player.

After graduating from Holy Cross College in 1941 with a bachelor’s degree in business, he played professional football with the Washington Red Skins and the Boston Yanks (now known as the Indianapolis Colts).

During World War II he served in the U.S. Army.

He returned to Waltham, Mass. after the war, and began his longtime career with Anheuser-Busch in March 1946 as a route salesman. Over the years he received many promotions, from branch manager to regional and then division manager.

In 1960 he resigned from Anheuser-Busch and purchased National Distributors, Inc. in Portland. He grew the company from a small beer distribution warehouse on York Street to a large operation that employs 200 people, distributing beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

He made a lasting impression on the many people he touched. Jeff Kane, president of National Distributors, said, “Frank was living proof of the American Dream. If you work hard and are determined to make a success of yourself you can succeed. He continues to be an inspiration for many people still in our business and those who have gone on to other careers.”

A generous philanthropist, he made many contributions to his community and schools over the years.

In 1985, in celebration of 25 years in business, he donated $50,000 for the construction of the bandstand in Deering Oaks Park in Portland. He was very proud of this gift and arranged for the Portland Symphony Orchestra to play and the Budweiser Clydesdales to be there for the dedication.

He was the local sponsor of the annual Holy Cross Book Award which was presented to a Catherine McAuley High School student to encourage attendance at Holy Cross. He initiated an awards dinner for outstanding student-athletes selected by Class A coaches, which was a program later taken on by the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. From 1992 through 1996 he arranged for the South Portland football teams to receive championship rings as a memento for their accomplishments. In 1993 he established an annual $1,000 scholarship to be awarded to an outstanding scholar-athlete from Waltham High School.

In 2000, he donated funds to the Portland Police Department to purchase a mobile, high-tech Intoxilyzer.

He was a member of the Portland Lions Club, H.T. Andrews Post, Portland Elks Club, The Cumberland Club, the Italian Heritage Club, the Holy Cross Alumni Association and the Holy Cross President’s Council.

For more than 25 years he wrote a weekly column in Portland newspapers, “I Bet You Didn’t Know,” which featured sports trivia and promoted different beer brands and facts about brewing, drinking, and enjoying beer.

A dedicated husband and father, he enjoyed spending summers with his family on Cape Cod in Falmouth, Mass.

He was predeceased in 2007 by his wife of 59 years, Norma.

Surviving are his two daughters, Dr. Jill Mitchell and her husband, Charles Mitchell III, of Scarborough, and Dr. Judy Kane and her husband, Jeffrey Kane, of Falmouth; and three grandchildren, Ben Schreiber and Lauren and David Kane.

Memorial services were held last week.

Memorial donations may be made to Maine Parkinson Society, P.O. Box 2382, South Portland, ME 04106 or St. Bartholomew’s Church, 8 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107.

Arrangements are by Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Homes, 1024 Broadway, South Portland.