Association, colleagues mourn loss of longtime Buffalo CEO

Longtime SJP FCU CEO Mike Bondanza passed away Tuesday, Jan. 9 after a battle with cancer.

Bondanza worked at the credit union for more than 35 years, starting when the credit union was just a half million in assets, and there were just three employees. He was initially on the board and after selling his copier business, and the board recruited him to be the credit union’s manager. From there, the credit union grew to over $120 million in assets. 

Bondanza also served as supervisory chair at Morton Lane FCU and previously served on the New York Credit Union Association’s Buffalo Chapter. He retired from the credit union June 30, 2022 and was succeeded by Chas Kirsch. He immediately joined the credit union’s board of directors and helped out a couple days a week to ensure that the operation was still running smooth in his absence, Kirsch said, adding that Bondanza was able to spend his brief retirement with his family and friends boating, fishing, traveling and enjoying life.

“I could give a million personal anecdotes,” Kirsch said. “We had so much fun together, laughed a ton, he was serious and loyal, and took pride in his hard work and taking care of everyone, but on the flipside loved to cut loose, have some drinks and goof around with everyone.” 

Kirsch said that, for over 20 years he and Bondanza would meet for drinks after board meetings and after everyone had left, would stick around “and talk about everything, literally” without almost ever missing a month for 20-plus years.

“I was really lucky to have worked with him,” Kirsch added. “My longtime friend, credit union member, and now SJP FCU Director Nick Battaglia summed it up nicely (insightful guy): ‘You guys were like something out of a Charles Dickens novel. To have your hand-picked successor take up the reins of the organization you loved and cherished and be so close with him as to be a pallbearer at his funeral is really something special. What are the chances you could achieve that as well?’”

Kirsch continued, saying “there is no way to put into words the impact that Mike had on me personally and all of us here at SJP Federal Credit Union. He was loved by all, had tons of friends, and impacted so many lives.”

William J. Mellin, Association President/CEO agreed, saying that “Mike Bondanza will be greatly missed, and the credit union movement has lost an irreplaceable individual who was clearly larger than life and positively impacted all he came into contact with.”

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