Emma D. Favazza, construction firm co-founder, dies

Her philanthropy ranged from charities to the arts and education

  • Emma Favazza
Emma Favazza
December 13, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Emma D. Favazza, co-founder of a Baltimore construction company whose philanthropic and charitable interests included the arts and education, died Saturday of heart failure at St. Joseph Medical Center.

The Timonium resident was 81.

Emma Elizabeth Dalcin, the daughter of a bricklayer and a homemaker, was born the youngest of 11 children in Bethlehem, Pa., and then moved with her family to nearby Allentown, Pa.

During the Depression, the family moved to the city's Pimlico neighborhood and later Catonsville. She attended Catonsville High School, leaving to help support her family.

"She had a tough, tough childhood. … Things were so bad that she had to put paper in her shoes and never had new clothes," said her daughter, Dr. Antoinette "Toni" Favazza of Wickford Point, R.I., who is a professor of adolescent psychology and education at the University of Rhode Island.

"One of her great strengths in life was that she was able to face life's greatest challenges," she said.

Mrs. Favazza worked in a factory sewing children's clothes, until meeting and marrying Frank F. Favazza Jr., who had started his construction career working as a carpenter for Modern Construction Co.

The couple married in 1952 and four years later established the Frank F. Favazza & Son Construction Co. Mrs. Favazza was the company's treasurer and interior designer.

"They started the business with $5,000," said Dr. Favazza. "She had been interested in the company's development and working on the interior design for different projects."

The company, which initially had its offices on Charles Street and later moved to Timonium, grew to become one of the most successful construction firms in the state.

They built 15 Holiday Inns in Maryland, and new plants and facilities for Head Ski Corp., Londontowne Inc. and United Iron & Metal. They also developed and built 10 shopping centers.

In Baltimore, they built the Anchorage residential tower and marina on Boston Street as well as the St. James apartment house on North Charles Street. They also rebuilt the Hillendale Country Club after it was destroyed by fire.

"They also built synagogues for the Har Sinai and Beth El congregations," said Dr. Favazza. "But they always believed in giving back to the community, and they wanted to help people who needed help."

The couple dissolved the company in 1993 and retired the next year.

Mrs. Favazza had been chair of fundraising at McDonogh School, where she had headed the Christmas bazaar for years. She also became involved with Notre Dame Preparatory School.

She began volunteering at St. Joseph Medical Center and became a longtime member of the Towson hospital's board. She also volunteered for years at Sheppard Pratt Hospital.

"No one wanted to work with the criminally insane, but she did it for five years because she was a strong woman," her daughter said.

"She held fundraising events at her home for Loyola College. She was a real people person and a patron of the arts and humanities," her daughter said. "And as a person, she had all the grace, elegance, sincerity and style of royalty."

Mrs. Favazza, who was an avid fan of classical music and opera, became involved with the Baltimore Opera Guild and was the figure behind the establishment of its annual opera gala.

Mrs. Favazza organized a fundraiser to help preserve Villa Pace, the Mediterranean-style home in the Green Spring Valley where the Metropolitan Opera diva Rosa Ponselle lived for more than 40 years.

"At one of the opera galas she organized, she got Rosa to sing," said Dr. Favazza.

Her involvement with the Baltimore Symphony got the orchestra to spread its wings and establish its Oregon Ridge concert series.

Mrs. Favazza and her husband owned and operated Triple F Stables and Triple F Farm in Hunt Valley, where she was known for her annual Preakness party.

Devout Roman Catholics, she and her husband helped establish the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier Church in Cockeysville.

Pope John Paul II inducted her husband as a knight into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, and Mrs. Favazza was given a similar papal honor when she was inducted as a lady of the organization.

The couple also established the Padonia Foundation, a charitable group of which Mrs. Favazza was treasurer.

Mrs. Favazza was an accomplished Italian cook and was known for her risotto and chicken cacciatore. Her longtime friend, former Baltimore Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III, was a big fan.

"She made the best chicken cacciatore in the world, and I had to beg her to make it," said Mr. D'Alesandro. "When we were finished eating, there was nothing left on the plate. If there was a drop of sauce, we'd wipe it up with a slice of Italian bread."

Mrs. Favazza was an accomplished ballroom dancer and enjoyed playing poker, singing and golf.

She was a member of the Hillendale Country Club and the Broken Sound Golf and Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla.

"She was still actively working at the end of her life with her various organizations," her daughter said.

Mrs. Favazza's husband, who had been a member of the state racing commission, died in August.

"I was with her the Saturday before she died. Emma was a very stately lady who came from a humble family and rose to success with grace and style," recalled Mr. D'Alesandro.

"She was a very caring and loving wife and mother. She was an exceptional lady — once you met her, you never forgot her," he said.

Mr. D'Alesandro added: "She and Frank were inseparable in life, and now they're inseparable in death."

"Behind every successful man is a successful woman, and that woman was my mom," her daughter said.

A Mass of Christian burial for Mrs. Favazza will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at her church, 13717 Cuba Road in Cockeysville.

Also surviving are a son, Frank F. Favazza III of Ocean City; and three grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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