Donofrio was the son of Italian immigrant parents. His father, Pasquel “Pat” Donofrio, was a successful nurseryman, and his mother, Lena Donofrio, was a homemaker. Born in Geneva, New York, Mr. Donofrio later moved with his family to Westminster, according to an obituary in The Sun.
After graduating from Westminster High School in 1944, Donofrio began his college studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he played several sports and was on the varsity boxing team.
The Sun obituary reported that while at the college, Donofrio took aptitude tests that revealed he had strong abilities that corresponded to sales or public relations work. After returning to Baltimore, he launched his advertising career when he went to work at VanSant Dugdale, a premier advertising firm, starting at the bottom in account services and moving up to copywriter and, finally, to account executive.
At the urging of a friend, David Martin, he left VanSant after eight years, and in 1961, he moved to Richmond, Virginia, and joined Cargill, Wilson & Acree. In 1964, Donofrio returned to Baltimore and established Richardson, Myers & Donofrio in the basement of a Biddle Street building that backed up to Danny’s restaurant on North Charles Street. The next year Martin founded The Martin Agency in Richmond.
“He used to sleep on a couch in his office and then go out and beat the bushes for business,” his wife of 27 years, Sherri Thompson, a retired AllFirst banker, told The Sun. “He was the epitome of the self-made man.”
In the 1980s the agency added a Philadelphia office and over the years represented some of the top brands in the region, including USF&G, Crown Central Petroleum, BGE, Black & Decker, HEAD sports, Waterford Crystal, DuPont, T. Rowe Price, Conrail, Air Products, Armstrong World Industries, Lucite Acrylics, Rubbermaid Commercial Products and many others.
In addition to the blue chip corporate clients, the agency developed a niche specialty in the agriculture business, beginning with Red Rose Animal Feeds — Triple Crown winner Secretariat ate its products — and then ICI Agriculture, Pfizer Animal Health, Fort Dodge Animal Health and others.
A high profile integrated marketing campaign Donofrio headed was for the state’s “Campaign for Our Children” program, started by Governor William Donald Schaefer and focused on teen pregnancy prevention. It attracted national press attention for its innovative approach, including the “Virgin: Teach Your Kid It’s Not a Dirty Word” billboard.
A memorial gathering will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. July 30 at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, Towson.