Peter R. DiForte, a volunteer who spearheaded fundraising for Philadelphia organizations, died Jan. 28 at age 67.
DiForte grew up in South Philadelphia, where he attended the parish school of St. Richard of Chichester Church and graduated from St. John Neumann High School in 1968. He remained a lifelong parishioner.
DiForte is the son and only child of the late Rosario and Lucy R. DiForte. Many cousins survive him.
Those who knew DiForte described him as “generous and devoted.”
DiForte was dedicated to raising money for local organizations including Philadelphia FIGHT, the Mazzoni Center, AIDS Information Network, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and events like the Blue Ball Recovery Brunch.
DiForte was also an artist and cabaret singer who would occasionally perform in town or as part of a fundraiser for an organization.
He was also known to frequent New York City and perform at Judy’s on 8th Avenue and other city spots.
“Peter DiForte was a huge help to FIGHT over a period of many years with fundraising focused on events we sponsored,” said executive director Jane Shull. “He was always cheerful, willing and extremely effective.
“But beyond that, he was a warm and wonderful person whom everybody here was always glad to see, and we will miss him very much.”
Nurit Shein, former Mazzoni Center CEO, knew DiForte for many years and worked with him on annual auctions for the center.
“He was a dedicated volunteer, always giving, and never saying no,” Shein said. “Thanks to his hard work, the organization had successful events, which enabled us to provide free services. He always smiled, was always a gentleman and a generous spirit. May his memory be a blessing.”
DiForte also organized and hosted the Blue Ball Recovery Brunch for many years and always offered to chair the corporate sponsorship committee.
Heshie Zinman, an advocate for health in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, also spoke highly of DiForte’s continuous efforts.
“Peter was a very kind, generous and, overall, a wonderful person. He was a devoted friend to all who knew him,” Zinman said.
DiForte was also well-known in town and was a frequent customer at Millennium Coffee on 12th Street, where he first met Dave Rumsey in the 1990s.
“He was a regular customer at the coffee bar, but there was nothing regular about him,” said Rumsey. “He was an incredibly kind and gentle man. And he was always willing to help you in whatever way he could.”
Several former employees of Millennium expressed heartbreak over DiForte’s death. Former employee Katie Carr said DiForte once bought her a tiny Christmas tree for her apartment because she never had one of her own.
When DiForte was not busy giving back, he was working in the home-design and decorating industry. During his career, he worked out of the Marketplace Design Center.
“It was really his extracurricular endeavors, fundraising and volunteering for so many different Philadelphia community organizations, that really defined who he was and what he was about,” said Rumsey.
His memorial service was held Jan. 24 at St. Richard Church in Cherry Hill, N.J.