D. Robert Buccini, contractor and BPG patriarch, dies at 78
WILMINGTON – Donato Robert “Bob” Buccini, longtime leader of the Edward J. DeSeta Company Inc., one of the largest commercial and industrial HVAC contractors and engineers in the Philadelphia region, and the father of Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) co-founders Robert and Chris Buccini, died Aug. 29 at age 78.
According to an obituary, he was fighting metastatic melanoma cancer.
A Philadelphia native, Buccini earned a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s from Villanova University. He met his wife of 54 years, Bernadette Erminia DeSeta, on a blind date – and for decades the two would lead the DeSeta company, which was founded by Bernadette’s father.
Known for its detailed work, on-site fabrication facilities and hands-on management, DeSeta grew to a multi-million-dollar operation throughout the region. Headquartered at 322 A Street in the Southbridge community, DeSeta worked on a number of high-profile projects over the years, including the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park, the Christiana Mall, AstraZeneca’s Wilmington campus, and many projects in and around Philadelphia.
A dedicated union worker, Buccini was actively involved with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local No. 19 for his entire career, serving as the chapter chairman of the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for Pennsylvania and Delaware for 16 years. Local No. 19 representative and County Councilman Ken Woods, who worked for DeSeta for many years, recalled Buccini as a proud union supporter, who valued the difference that a union could make in a worker’s life.
John McMahon, a former state labor secretary and executive at the Delaware Contractors Association, remembered Buccini as “a very special person.”
“If you needed something and you called Bobby, he was going to do his darndest to make sure he could help you do it,” McMahon said.
Buccini was recalled as a boss who treated his employees like family, even bidding down projects to win work at razor-thin margins simply to ensure that his workers continued to get a paycheck, recalled Ed Levering, who worked for DeSeta for 31 years before joining BPG.
“There were probably 50 or 60 people who spent their whole career at DeSeta,” he added of the staff’s loyalty to Buccini. “I always felt that he made me and helped my family get where we are today.”
Andrew Deubert, a project manager for DeSeta via SSM Industries, also grew close to Buccini as his father Steve worked side-by-side with him for more than 30 years. Deubert started working at DeSeta in the summertime when he was 14 years old.
“My father passed away 11 years ago, and I came to follow in my father’s footsteps, working alongside Bob Buccini,” Deubert said. “Bob is one of the most important mentors and friends I will ever have. He and the Buccini family gave my father an incredible opportunity to build an amazing career and provide a wonderful life for his family. I too was blessed with the same opportunity.”
Buccini was well-known in the Wilmington community, especially among the Roman Catholic and Italian-American communities – he and Bernadette even attended the Italy state dinner at the Obama White House as guests of then-Vice President Joe Biden. In 2018, Buccini and his family received the Monsignor Reese Award at the Catholic Charities annual tribute dinner in recognition for his “lifelong commitment to community service, most especially to make the city of Wilmington and surrounding area a better place to live, work and play.”
Buccini’s spotlight would only grow with the success of his sons, Robert and Chris, whose multi-faceted commercial real estate firm BPG has become the biggest player in Wilmington. DeSeta would work on several BPG projects over the years, including the Residences at Christina Landing and the Philadelphia Union’s Subaru Park, strengthening the familial ties that guided much of Buccini’s work.
Mahon recalled that while Buccini was generous with his time and money, building was his passion.
“He was very much involved in family and the Catholic Church, but what Bobby was infamous for was his ability to keep working and working and working. If you ever talked to Bobby though, he’d tell you he never made a dime,” Mahon recalled with a laugh.
A burial mass was held Sept. 7, where the pews of St. Anthony’s of Padua Church were reportedly filled to the brim. The service can be viewed online.
Contributions in Buccini’s memory can be made in support The Ministry of Caring (www.ministryofcaring.org or by check mailed to 115 East 14th Street, Wilmington, DE 19801) or Penn Medicine’s Tara Miller Melanoma Center (www.PennMedicine.org/giving/TMMC or by check payable to “Penn Medicine” mailed to Penn Medicine Development, Attn: Kelly McBride, 3535 Market St., Suite 750, Philadelphia, PA 19104).
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