Niagara Gazette — In the final days of his dear friend’s life last year, designer Paul LaMorticella sat with her family and friends in a grim critical- care waiting room at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.
His friend, Nancy Gara, a longtime hospital volunteer and advocate, was battling lung cancer in the critical-care unit and it was a testimony to her life that so many people came to give her love and support. But LaMorticella was struck by the sadness of the space in which they waited.
“The room did not provide the comfort and warmth needed for the people who find themselves in such grave situations,” he said.
When Gara died last May at age 65, LaMorticella was among the many whose hearts were broken, but he found a way to pay tribute to her recently when he renovated the waiting room in her honor.
The globe-trotting LaMorticella, who has a design business called Dream Designs & More in Western New York and a second design business in Southern California, set about with the intent of making the room feel like an embrace for those who wait within its walls.
The designer met Gara years ago through his sister, Lynn Safarian, owner of Evergreen Floral in Niagara Falls. Safarian and Gara were tellers at HSBC as Gara was just starting on her path to eventually becoming a vice president at First Niagara. Gara was like family to the siblings, LaMorticella said, and he decorated two of Gara’s homes.
“She always supported my business,” he said, “and always gave me constant reassurances.”
A Niagara Falls native, LaMorticella has designed for top Buffalo restaurants, including the Buffalo Chophouse, and hotels such as the Statler. He also has designed locally for businesses such as The Seneca Niagara Hotel and Casino, Town Hall Bistro in Lewiston and Franca Romeo Accounting in Niagara Falls. Among his world travels, he’s been — just last year — to Italy, Mexico and France.