Mario G. Suarez, P.E. (1926 - 2014)

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MarioGSuarez1Mario Gonzalo Suarez y de Cardenas, 87, of New Rochelle, NY, and formerly of Havana, Cuba, died on Feb.18, 2014 at his home surrounded by his family. He was born on April 25,1926 to the late Miguel A. Suarez and Esperenza De Cardenas in Havana, Cuba where his father was a real estate developer.

Mario is survived by his devoted wife of 64 years, Raquel Suarez of New Rochelle, NY and by his loving children, Raquel (Alfonso) Martinez-Fonts of Washington, DC, Mario (Teresa) Suarez of Slingerlands, NY, Jorge (Janet) Suarez of Beaver, PA, Javier (Susan) Suarez of Lake Barrington, IL, Julio (Jean) Suarez of Plano, TX, Juan (Jennifer) Suarez of LaPlace, LA, Maria (Robert) Cox of New Rochelle, NY and Guillermo (Susan) Suarez of East Norwalk, CT.

Also survived by his precious grandchildren, Andrew, Angela, Anna Marie, Christian, Christina, Collins, Daniel, Danny, David, Diana, Elena, Fr. Luke, Francis, Jacqueline, Jon Mario, Juan Joseph, Kathleen, Mario Matthew, Mark, Mary, Matthew, Micaela, Michael John, Michael William, Michelle, Nicolas, Owen, Patrick, Peter, Raquel, Sean, Tabitha, Teresa and Tony, and 27 great-grand children and many wonderful nieces and nephews.

He is survived by his sister Margarita of Gonzales, LA. and predeceased by his brothers and sisters Miguel, Esperanza, Elena, Roberto, Georgina.

Suarez was a top student growing up in Cuba, excelling in science and mathematics. He attended St. George’s High School where he graduated first in his class. He was a competitive diver in his school days.

MarioGSuarez2Suarez received his Civil Engineering degree in 1948 from the University of Havana, Cuba and his Masters of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1950. He was a professor and head of the Structural Department in the School of Science and Technology at the Universidad Católica de Santo Tomás de Villanueva from 1954 until 1958.

Suarez worked as a structural engineer for La Concretera Nacional, a public works contractor, and in private practice until 1960 when he left his homeland with his entire family to make a new life in the United States after the Cuban revolution.

Suarez was a Senior Structural Engineer at Ammann & Whitney in New York, Chief Engineer And Vice President at Stresssteel Corp. in Wilkes-Barre, PA and Principal at Schupack Suarez Engineers of Norwalk, CT.

Over the course of his outstanding professional career, Suarez became one of the pioneers of the prestressed concrete industry. His life’s work included design, construction and evaluation of bridges, buildings, dams, retaining walls, tanks and many other structures; investigation of performance problems in existing structures and structures under construction, remedial measures for the same; research and development on prestressing materials, equipment and methods, corrosion sensitivity and performance of reinforcing and prestressing steels and methods of protection thereof; fibrous concrete materials and applications; post-tensioning and concrete material technology, fabrication, construction, testing and quality control procedures; and appearing in court as an expert witness. He held a patent related to concrete construction and technology.

Suarez was one of the founding fathers of the Prestressed Concrete Institute and Post-Tensioning Institute. He was a member of the American Concrete Institute, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the National Forensic Center and served on technical committees for ACI, PCI and PTI.

He received many industry honors including the prestigious PTA Award and PTI’s Legends of Post-Tensioning for significant long-term contributions to the development of the post-tensioning industry in North America. Suarez was selected by PTI membership for the inaugural class of the PTI Hall of Fame in 2005.

Due to a less restrictive regulatory regime than the United States, engineers in Cuba were able to do the most advanced work in the world with bridge and highway construction in the post-war period. American companies flocked to Cuba to see the results with Suarez at the forefront of his generation of young Cuban engineers.

Among his most notable projects in Cuba were the Canas River Bridge, a 250-foot span cast-in-place box girder prestressed concrete highway bridge completed in 1952. At the time, it was the largest prestressed concrete bridge in the Western Hemisphere; and the Zaza River Bridge a 300-foot segmental PT concrete truss bridge employing the cantilever method completed in 1959. This project predates all other major precast segmental concrete bridges in the world.

Canas River Bridge

Zaza River Bridge

While still a student at the University of Havana, Suarez designed the right-field bleachers for a baseball stadium developed by his father’s company. Gran Estadio de La Habana, since renamed Estadio Latinoamericano, was opened in 1946 as the top baseball park in Latin America. The stadium hosted many American professional teams and explains, in part, how he became a lifelong New York Yankees fan. In 1999, the stadium hosted an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national baseball team that was broadcast on national TV in the United States.

El Gran Stadium de la Habana

One of the highlights of his career came in 2002 when Suarez was selected by Robert Silman Associates to design and provide construction oversight for the permanent repairs to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater using post-tensioning.

Fallingwater1

The structural system of the house, a National Historic Landmark, includes reinforced concrete cantilevered balconies that began to sag as construction was completed in 1937. By 1997 they were found to be near failure limits.

Fallingwater2Temporary girders installed beneath the cantilevers supported the structure until 2002, when Suarez and his team joined blocks to the concrete cantilever beams and floor joists and ran high-strength steel cables through the blocks and exterior walls. The cables were tightened using jacks, the floors and walls restored, so that the deflection stopped leaving the appearance of Fallingwater unchanged.

Suarez describes the effort in the documentary film “Saving Fallingwater” which tells the story of “the architects, engineers, and historians who rescued Frank Lloyd Wright's most important masterpiece”.

Fallingwater3

Suarez was an active member of Holy Name of Jesus Church where he served as Lector and Eucharistic Minister. He was a member of Agrupación Católica Universitaria.

Memorial Service at Salesian High School Friday from 6-8 p.m.

148 E Main St, New Rochelle, NY

Funeral Mass Holy Name of Jesus Church Saturday at 1 p.m.

75 Lispenard Avenue, New Rochelle, NY

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Alzheimer's Association. Donate online at www.alz.org, on the telephone at 1-800-272-3900 or by mail at Alzheimer's Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Peggy Godfrey on Sat, 02/22/2014 - 04:15

Your wife's father gave so much to this world and will be missed. My deepest condolences.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 15:08

Mario G. Suarez was my father-in-law.

This obituary could have listed dozens more high-profile projects.

Perhaps the most significant because it literally saved thousands of lives was the the reactor vessel and containment building at TMI-2, otherwise known as Three Mile Island. When systems were failing all around, the concrete structures held and prevented radiological contamination from escaping the power plant.

New York State Pavilion observatory towers which still remain at the site of the 1964 World's Fair is another.

Anyone who has visited Fallingwater in Western Pennsylvania since 2002 will see and hear the story of how the building was saved in large part by the solution devised by my wife's father. When our family visited there several years ago, the management was so excited to have the daughter of Mario Suarez on hand that they arranged an exclusive private tour for her.

I suppose the best thing about specializing in stress steel concrete is that your work tends to last a very long time :-)

On a personal level, Mario was a good man, very concerned with his family, and very serious. Of all this children, and his siblings, and their children, he was always viewed as the patriarch of the family even though he was not the oldest. He was a serious person, not to be trifled with on serious matters, but a warm and caring person who achieved universal respect among those who knew him.

Mario was a huge Yankee fan who watched every game he could on TV and attended many games.

In 1983, following the infamous Pine Tar Incident -- George Brett was called out after hitting a home run when Billy Martin complained that Brett’s bat was illegally covered in pine tar -- Mario applied his considerable engineering skills to a complex proof demonstrating that pine tar on a bat would cause a struck baseball to travel farther than a plain wooden bat this supporting Martin that the pine tar gave Brett an unfair advantage. Unfortunately, his letter to the Yankees did not receive a response and American League president Lee MacPhail ordered the game be restarted from the point of Brett's home run with the Royals winning 5–4.

In 1999, we watched on TV an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national baseball team. It was a bittersweet moment for Mario to see his homeland on TV. At the time, I was unaware that the stadium they were playing in, the Estadio Latinoamericano, was built and owned by his father's company. The stadium was later seized by the government and had been remodeled in 1971. Mario paid more attention to the stadium than the game on the field. When a ball was hit to right field Mario broke into a huge grin.

"It's still there," he said.

Puzzled, I asked what he was talking about. He explained how, as a student, he had been given the job of designing the bleacher section of the stadium. Despite the renovations, the bleachers remained in tact as they were built in 1946.

One of my most vivid memories of Mario was Game 5 of the 2001 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners. It was right after the 9/11 attacks. The Yankees had staged an amazing comeback against the Oakland A’s in the previous round of the playoffs where Jeter made that amazing catch falling into the stands. The Mariners had won 116 regular season games, breaking a record set by the Yankees just a few seasons before.

We went together. We were able to get into the game with nosebleed section tickets. By about the fourth inning I had my eye on seats at field level to the side of the Yankee dug out. In any other circumstances I would have left the upper deck and tried to work my way into those seats but here I am with my father-in-law, the straightest of straight arrows, and there is no way he is going to break the rules. After another inning I could not take it any more so I leaned over, pointed out the empty seats and suggested we might want to consider moving down there later. I turned away from him for a split second but by the time I turned around Mario was already halfway down the stairs of our section. I ran to catch up with him and next thing we were sitting about 10th row (security today would NEVER allow that but back then this was possible). Mario was a huge Yankee fan. He spent the last two innings precariously standing on his seat, screaming his lungs out, while I tried my best to spot on, imagining the phone call I would have to make if he fell. The Yankees crushed the Mariners 12–3 to the win the American League pennant and we made it home safely.

He was 75 years old at the time.

Not many years after that Mario left us, another victim of Alzheimer's disease. His passing this week while sad was not tragic. The tragedy was the onset of the disease and the way this disease can take away so much from a great man with a great mind.

For this reason, the family is asking that folks make donations to the Alzheimer's Association so that some day their might be a cure.

Brian Sussman on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 01:45

Bob -

Is Mario Gonzalo Suarez y de Cardenas, your Father-In-Law? Presuming he is, I am sorry to hear of your family's loss.

Mario Suarez evidently had an impressively full and satisfying personal and professional life, that continues to benefit Cuban and American society.

In mourning the loss of a person, we should always celebrate that person's life.

- Brian Sussman

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