Thursday, March 1, 2018
Louis “Lou” Blaiotta, Sr., founder and Chairman of Columbia Elevator Products Co., Inc., died peacefully on March 1, 2018, at Calvary Hospital, Bronx, NY. Lou is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marie Blaiotta, his three children and three grandchildren: Margaret Gilhooley, her husband Paul, and daughter Maria; Dione Birdsall, her husband Tom, and son Dillon; LJ Blaiotta, his wife Laura, and daughter Alexandra.
Lou Blaiotta was born to immigrant parents on November 11, 1932, in a cold water flat in East Harlem in New York City. When he was 22 months old, his mother and expectant brother both died during childbirth, and, when he was 13, his father died in a fall while repairing a construction hoist at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center (an event later commemorated by the naming of the Columbia Elevator Products Company). He was raised by his grandmother, who migrated to the U.S. at age 72 when his mother passed.
Between 1949 and 1954, Lou attended the Pratt Institute School of Architecture and began his career as an office boy at the Williamsburg Steel Products Co., later rising to the position of draftsman. After a 2-year stint at Army HQ in Tokyo, Japan where he served his nation as a cartographer in the 29th Engineering Battalion (TOPO), he returned to Williamsburg Steel in 1956 in various capacities, including engineering, construction manager, estimating, sales, and a side project designing the Williamsburg Elevator Products catalog.
In 1958, Lou became sales manager of the Williamsburg Steel Elevator Products Division. In the mid-60s, he presented his employers, the Katz family of Williamsburg Steel Prod. Co., Inc., with a ‘different’ concept of marketing elevator entrances and cabs to independent elevator contractors, but the Katzes did not accept it. Lou gave them 9 months’ notice that he wished to pursue his concept on his own. This resulted in the formation of the Columbia Elevator Products Co., Inc.; Williamsburg granted the new venture $25,000 worth of merchandise credit and served as Columbia's primary source of door panels for the first 8 years of its existence. Lou’s company went on from humble beginnings as a 10,000 sq. ft. facility in Port Chester, NY, to become North America’s largest independent elevator architectural products manufacturer, with nearly 300,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and engineering facilities located in Bridgeport, CT; Miami, FL; and Winfield, KS.
Lou was a member of NAESA Advisory Board, and a decades-long active participant in ANSI/ASME A17 activities. He served on the Main, Hoistway and Code Coordinating Committees and was elected to a Lifetime Honorary Membership on the ANSI Main Committee. He was also a charter member of the ASME/QEI Committee and served as the NAEC Chairman of Codes and Standards for over 20 years. Other affiliations included membership in the International Association of Elevator Engineers, on the Standard Technical Panel (STP) formerly known as the Underwriter Laboratories’ Advisory Board, and the National Fire Protection Association. In 1991, Lou received the prestigious NAEC Distinguished Service Award (later renamed the William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award) for his technical and philanthropic contributions to the elevator industry, and, in 2013, was presented with the NAEC Lifetime Honorary Membership Award, bestowed only four times in the history of the Association.
Throughout his adult life, Lou Blaiotta served his community and various philanthropic causes in many ways. He was President of the Port Chester NY Chamber of Commerce, extremely active in the Port Chester/Rye Town Rotary, and Chairman of numerous United Way fund raising campaigns. He established the first charitable golf outing for Boys’ Towns of Italy (recently renamed A Chance in Life), a philanthropic organization devoted to the education of orphans, and he was recognized by the Italian Consulate with the prestigious honorary award of Commendatore, or Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
Said Louis ‘LJ’ Blaiotta, Jr., CEO of Columbia Elevator:
“Aside from my father’s professional and community achievements, he never forgot his humble roots as a poor orphan boy from East Harlem, NY, and throughout his life remained a principled fighter for the little guy. On behalf of the Blaiotta family, the hundreds of employees who worked with him at Columbia over the past half century, and the thousands of those employees’ family members whose lives he may have positively affected, it is this legacy that all of us at Columbia will miss most about Lou Blaiotta.”
The family would like to thank the doctors and hospital staff of both White Plains Hospital Cancer Center and Calvary Hospital for their care and dedication to Lou Blaiotta in the final years of his life. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Memory of Lou Blaiotta to Calvary Hospital Fund at http://www.calvaryhospital.org