Edward John DeBartolo Sr. (May 17, 1909 – December 19, 1994) was an American businessman. In 1971, his Ohio-based corporation was ranked as 47th among the nation’s top 400 construction contractors. In 1983, DeBartolo was included on Forbes magazine’s first Forbes 400 list of richest Americans.
The second of six children, DeBartolo was born in Youngstown, Ohio, a center of steel production that was also a major destination for immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. DeBartolo’s parents, Anthony Paonessa and Rose Villani, had immigrated to the United States from Italy. DeBartolo never knew his biological father, who died suddenly before his birth.
After Anthony Paonessa’s death, Rose Villani Paonessa married Michael DeBartolo, and Edward took his stepfather’s family name. Michael DeBartolo emigrated from Bari, Italy, with his family at age 17 and became a paving contractor and builder of warehouses and other structures. While a teenager, Edward DeBartolo began working, translating paving contracts for his stepfather, who did not read or write English.
DeBartolo went on to earn a degree in civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Next came a decade of construction jobs with his stepfather. Capitalizing on his engineering skills, DeBartolo found himself serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. It was during the War, in 1944, that he married Marie Patricia Montani and incorporated his own company, The Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation.