|This article does not cite any references or sources. (November 2009)|
March 3, 1927|
Brooklyn, New York, USA
|Died||February 3, 1987
Miami, Florida, USA
|Occupation||Boat designer, builder and racer|
|Spouse(s)||Shirley Goldin (divorced)
Donald Joel Aronow (March 3, 1927 – February 3, 1987) was an American designer, builder and racer of the famous Magnum Marine, Cigarette, Donzi, and Formula speed boats. He built speedboats for the His Imperial Majesty Shah of Iran, Charles Keating, Robert Vesco, Malcolm Forbes, and George H. W. Bush. President Lyndon Johnson—in retirement—owned several 16 ft. Donzi speedboats on his Texas ranch with which he would race his Secret Service agents.
Early life and education
Aronow was born in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, the youngest son of Russian Jewish immigrants Herman and Ruth Aronow. He has two elder sisters, Sylvia and Lillian. His father owned a gas station and then a taxi company which collapsed during the Great Depression. He graduated a top athlete from James Madison High school in 1944, worked as a life guard at Coney Island, and enrolled at Brooklyn College. In 1945, he left school before completion and joined the merchant marine working overseas during the end of World War II. In 1947, he returned to the USA and completed his studies graduating from Brooklyn College in 1950 with a physical education degree earning letters in football, wrestling, and track.
After school, he worked as a physical education teacher for a time until he accepted a job at his with his father-in-law's southern New Jersey construction business which was booming thanks to demand from returning World War II veterans. In 1953, he established his own construction company, the Aronow Corporation which quickly became one of the largest construction companies in the state. In 1959, at age of 32, the now-millionaire Aronow moved to Miami with his family, where he began racing boats as a hobby.
The hobby evolved into a business and by the end of 1962, he had formed the Formula Marine boat company, which he then sold, and in 1964 he started Donzi Marine. In 1966, he founded Magnum Marine with Elton Cary and, in 1970, after campaigning his boat "The Cigarette" around the world and winning the World Championship, he started Cigarette Racing Team using his own designs. Having sold Cigarette for the last time (after having sold it and purchasing it back in the late 1970s), he formed USA Racing Team and built the Blue Thunders, 39-foot catamarans used by the United States Customs Service to patrol U.S. waters and run down illegal offshore activities, especially drug smuggling. Aronow's close friend at the time, Vice President George Bush, was a former Cigarette owner and was involved in testing out the 39-foot cats prior to government approval.
Aronow's boats won over 350 offshore races and he was a two-time world champion and three-time U.S. champion. He has been elected to every powerboating Hall of Fame in existence and he and Gar Wood were the only two Americans to have ever received the UIM Gold Medal of Honor.
The great speed of Cigarette boats also made them a popular choice among cocaine runners. On February 3, 1987, Aronow was murdered in his car at the end of 188th Street in Miami (the famous Thunderboat Row) where his boat companies operated. Aronow had just left from a meeting with Bob Saccenti, part owner of Apache Power Boats together with partner Ben Kramer. Witnesses said that a powder blue Lincoln pulled next to Mr. Aronow's car from the opposite direction, and when Aronow rolled down its window the driver opened fire. Another witness tried to follow the Lincoln as it fled but could not catch the killer(s). The Lincoln drove over the grass to get away.
Two men—Ben Kramer, a suspected drug runner who bought Aronow's USA Racing Team and was forced to sell it back to Aronow after the Customs Service refused to do business with him, and Bobby Young—eventually pleaded no contest to manslaughter related to Aronow's murder. Kramer was already in prison at the time of his plea in 1996 and is now serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
Aronow married twice.
- In 1948, he married Shirley Goldin. They had three children:
- Michael who was a star athlete at the University of Florida until he was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident in 1970.
- Claudia is a New York artist and ex-wife of real estate developer Martin Kimmel. Their son is menswear designer Adam Kimmel who is also the husband of actress Leelee Sobieski.
- His second wife was former Wilhelmina model, Lillian Crawford, 24 years his junior. They had two sons.
- Power & Motor Magazine: "How a Kid From Brooklyn Put Go-Fast Boats 0n The Map" By Capt Ken Kreisler Power & Motor July 2000
- People: "Don Aronow's Murder Leaves Miami Wondering: Were 'Cigarettes' Hazardous to His Health?" By Joshua Hammer March 30, 1987
- Sports Illustrated: "Master Of Those Mad Racers - Don Aronow hurts a little, but as the world's top ocean powerboat driver and builder he is never bored" by Jerry Kirshenbaum November 17, 1969
- New York Times: "DONALD ARONOW, BOAT DESIGNER AND CHAMION RACER, SHOT TO DEATH" February 04, 1987
- New York Social Diary: "Claudia Aronow" April 13, 2012
- New York Times, Men's Fashion, Travel: "For The Moment | Show Time for Adam Kimmel" January 11, 2008
- Interfaith Family: "Interfaith Celebrities: Coming of Age Again, the Girls of NYC and a Couple of Rookies" By Nate Bloom April 17, 2012
- New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths KAYES, CECILY ELMES" February 04, 2004
- Don Aronow: The King of Thunderboat Row, 1994, by Michael Aronow
- Historic Offshore Race Boat Association - Donald Aronow
- Blue Thunder: How the Mafia Owned and Finally Murdered Cigarette Boat King Donald Aronow, 1990, Thomas Burdick and Charlene Mitchell
- "Liquid Smoke", David Samuels, Men's Vogue, January 2007
- "The Murder of Speedboat Builder Don Aronow", Matt Meltzer, Miami Beach 411, September 18, 2007
- "Rock around the States: Don Aronow" by Antonio Soccol
- "30 for 30 Shorts: Collision Course" Documentary on Aronow's Murder