Cover photo for Donald Joseph Bardell's Obituary
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Donald Joseph Bardell

Donald J. Bardell, former University of Rochester football great, attorney, and association executive, passed peacefully at home in Alexandria, Va. on June 6, 2020, three weeks from his 89 th birthday.

Don was born in Rochester, NY in 1931. He was a first-generation American, both parents having emigrated from Sicily as children. He attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel grammar school and made lifelong friendships there. He graduated from East High School where, as all- scholastic football co-captain and student government president in both junior and senior years, he honed athletic and leadership abilities.

Don went on to earn a BA degree in history at the University of Rochester (1953), while playing football as offensive guard and defensive nose tackle. Lettering in four seasons and starting in three seasons, Don was captain of the U of R’s first undefeated football team. He was selected first team, Little All America – U of R’s first. Nicknamed “Doo-man” and “Babe,” he would be inducted into the Monroe County High School Athletes Hall of Fame and the University of Rochester Athletic Hall of Fame.

After college, Don served in the United States Marine Corps. He was a “Parris Island Marine.” He was First Lieutenant and his aptitude in trigonometry earned him assignment as Battery Commander in Korea. He loved the Marine Corps but declined to make it a career because he wanted to have a family. Upon returning home, he was interviewed by the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions, and he played six games in the Canadian league. But he chose law school. He earned his LLB degree at Georgetown. He was a member of the New York State Bar and the Bar of the District of Columbia.

After three years with the National Labor Relations Board, the young lawyer moved back to Rochester where he practiced with Maloy, Pirrello & Bardell. He coached Pop Warner football in Irondequoit for nine years. He taught labor law in evening courses at U of R. In 1971 he went to Albany as Deputy Commissioner and Counsel of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. His work in highway safety led Don to Washington, DC, where for ten years he was Executive Director of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, during which time he also served on boards and commissions for the National Safety Council and other highway safety organizations. He shook hands with three U.S. presidents. He traveled to every state and every Canadian province, and about a dozen countries in Europe and Asia. Always a
history lover, at age 65 Don took a part-time retirement job in the finance department at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. He kept the job 20 years and retired at 85.

Don had five children and he loved them very much. He treasured his friends. He helped strangers. He enjoyed reading, golf, skiing, and sailing. He learned celestial navigation and mastered the sextant. In the 1990s he was active with the Alexandria Seaport Foundation and was navigator on its three-masted 125-foot schooner, Alexandria. Of course he followed football. He scouted for the Washington Redskins, the NFL team he had rooted for since arriving at Quantico in the 1950s, by carefully observing college players on television. Unfortunately, the Redskins were not aware of it.

Don was predeceased by his parents, his in-laws, and his sister JoAnn who died as a young child. His first wife, divorced in the 1970s, died in 2008. Don leaves behind his wife of nearly 33 years,
Betty Ann Bardell; his children Brian Bardell (Sharheba) of New York, Lance Bardell of Florida, Donna Bardell of Florida, Tracy Bardell (Rianne) of Oregon, and Darren Bardell (Annie) of California; and five grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Edward Bardell (Jeanette), his sister Mary Ann Palmer (Ron), several nieces and nephews, his sister-in-law Donna Emery, his caring aide Mr. Barrie, and beloved friends.

Arrangements are entrusted to Cunningham Turch of Alexandria. Because of travel precautions in the current pandemic environment, a small memorial gathering will be held on June 19 with distant loved ones invited to participate remotely, followed by inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date.

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