An Attorney and a Gentleman

March 1, 2016


BUFFALO, NY - Those who knew the late Robert E. Levi best, describe him as a truly compassionate gentleman.

After graduating from Canisius in 1954, Levi earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame. He practiced as a counselor and attorney for almost 60 years with the Tonawanda law firm McKenna, Brady and Levi, which he first joined as a junior partner and later operated as the principal attorney.

Though Levi found his work rewarding, it was not his first vocational choice.

"From a very young age, Bob felt a calling to become a priest," recalls close friend Frederick W. Hamp. "When he told the pastor at his church, however, the pastor suggested he pursue a different career."

Discouraged but not disheartened, Levi vowed to make God a vital part of his life, and fulfill his personal desire to serve others and make a difference.

"He became a benefactor to a large number of families, individuals and institutions, whom he assisted in many different ways," Hamp says. "But Bob never spoke too much about what he did. He was very quiet and demure in that way."

The only exception was after the 4:30 p.m. Mass on Saturdays at St. Joseph's Cathedral.

"During the later years of his life, Bob found no greater joy than filling his car – the biggest boat of a Cadillac you can imagine – from top to bottom with produce, baked goods or whatever was ‘in season’ and giving it all away to everyone after Mass," Hamp says with a laugh. "It caused so much commotion that he was asked to stop several different times."

Alma mater is fortunate to have had a lifelong friend in Levi.

For more than 40 years, he gave consistently to the college's Canisius Fund. Levi's annual gift helped support academic programs and strengthen the Jesuit mission.

"Bob was always very concerned with helping younger people," Hamp explains.

That remains true, even after his passing.

In November 2015, Canisius was pleased to learn that Robert E. Levi bequeathed nearly $1.2 million to the college. His gift will provide financial assistance to students interested in law or law-related careers. Hamp believes that the gift is "Bob's way of continuing to help young people who want to go to college but might not otherwise be able to."

And though the beneficiaries of Levi's generosity cannot thank him personally, Hamp suggests that Levi "be remembered simply as someone who cared and tried to help. That would mean a lot to him."