Don Antaky passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on November 9, 2023 in Brooklyn, NY.
He was raised on Seeley Street in Windsor Terrace in Brooklyn, and later moved with his parents and sister to Bay Ridge in the same borough. He attended Holy Name grade school, Poly Prep and Fordham University, graduating in 1954. He was a tenacious wrestler and football player. He played freshman football when Fordham was a powerhouse, and got to compete against West Point before the program was discontinued.
His mother was a seamstress and opened up a contracting company and he sometimes worked there with his angelic sister Laurice. While training for the Air Force, he befriended trainees who would become principals at Riggs Bank and one who was a member of the Lehman family. Later he would be interviewed by one of the actual Lehman brothers for a job after he defended his service buddy from antisemitic slurs. In the Air Force, he worked with Strategic Air Command in London and Spain during the beginning of the Cold War.
While there, he met Larry Hagman, who recruited him to work with setting up entertainment for those who served around Europe. They became good friends, and he met Mary Martin, who became one of the first actresses to portray "Peter Pan" on Broadway. After college he worked with Pepsi, Addressograph and IBM in sales. In these places he honed his skills to become one of the top salesmen in the Industry. He eventually went into clothing manufacturing. He built up a small contracting company on Jay Street in Brooklyn, and turned it into a successful manufacturing company on Madison Avenue.
He earned the moniker "Madison Avenue Don" during his successful years from his friends and family. He was known for his impeccable taste in clothes and dapper appearance.
The most fortunate part of his life occurred when he met his wife Lillian, who he married in 1957. They were married for 61 years before her passing in 2018. Much of their time was devoted to a large extended group of family and friends of which there were many. Both of them looked youthful even into their "golden years." He was exposed to a Rennaissance style education. He understood business, history and literature. He could recite poetry at the "drop of a hat." He attended athletic events, restaurants, museums and theater. He was a voracious reader and had an incredible vocabulary. He was not afraid to challenge the status quo and to stand up for what he thought was right. His energy level was astonishing... He would take his sons on skiing trips when he was in his mid-seventies. When he returned he could be found playing tennis in the Poconos with his wife and friends. He was a powerful spirit who wanted to see the world and experience it.
Mostly he will be remembered for his smile, his enigmatic personality, and his laughter. Almost everyone will remember a funny story, joke he told, or his booming laugh. Through ups and downs, he made people he knew feel some joy. He loved his family, both extended and immediate. The love was unconditional and when he could, he was generous to many without casting judgement or without looking for reciprocation. Throughout his life, though he had strong opinions, he never disparaged others or used inappropriate language; he always tried his best to teach his children to have decorum and to enjoy their lives. He wanted everyone to thrive. His battle cry was "Excelsior!" Strive for excellence... and enjoy the fruits the world has to offer us.
He is survived by his four children: Donald Jr, Louise (Wayne), Douglas (Karin), James (Christina) and seven grandchildren: Derek, Allison, Matthew, Luke, Douglas, Layla and Mark and many nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to St. Jude's Research Hospital