Structural engineer Vincent J. DeSimone—an innovator with an outsize personality known for his ability to creatively support his architect-clients as they curved, twisted and stretched their building envelopes—died on Nov. 16, just two weeks shy of his 79th birthday. The cause was cancer.

“He was a very knowledgeable, smart, competent professional and an outrageously funny guy,” says Richard L. Tomasetti, who worked with DeSimone in the late 1960s. “We just couldn’t wait to see what he would say next,” adds Tomasetti, consultant and founding principal of structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti.

DeSimone was known for his expertise in concrete. He completed more than 80 projects, designed by architects such as Michael Graves, Frank Gehry and Bjarke Ingels. The jobs included the Swan Hotel in Orlando, Fla.; the Altantis resort on Paradise Island, the Bahamas; the Grove at Grand Bay in Coconut Grove, Fla.; and the Miami Performing Arts Center. At the time of his passing, DeSimone was the structural engineer for Miami’s One Thousand Museum Tower. The residential high-rise, set for completion next year, is the late architect Zaha Hadid’s first U.S. skyscraper.

“In certain respects, Vince was a Damon Runyonesque character,” says structural engineer Irwin G. Cantor, a consultant and former DeSimone competitor for commissions. “He turned out some good-looking structures.”

DeSimone received an engineering degree from Manhattan College in 1959 and an honorary doctorate from the school in 2009. He was a licensed engineer in 22 states and Puerto Rico. At his death, he was chairman and senior principal in charge of design for DeSimone Consulting Engineers, a firm he founded in 1969 in New York City.

His son, Stephen V. DeSimone, president and CEO since 2002, will take over as chairman. “For Vince, it wasn’t about accolades. It was about relationships and mentoring,” says Stephen, 50. “Younger architects and developers were his kindred spirits,” he adds.

The son describes his father as being without pretension. “He was a great partner and a better father.”