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June 24, 1936 – Feb. 2, 2013

Ralph Hernandez, of Buffalo, who served as executive director of Friendship House in Lackawanna for 20 years, died Saturday in Sisters Hospital after a lengthy illness. He was 76.

Born in New York City, he came to Buffalo with his family at age 7 and was a graduate of East High School.

He then spent a few years in New York City, where he met his wife of 49 years, the former Dale Carter, and wrote songs, notably “Thumb Thumb,” which was recorded by Frankie Lymon.

Returning to Buffalo, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo and a master’s degree in social work from UB, while working in the financial aid department at the university.

He became executive director of Friendship House in 1977 and expanded it beyond its traditional base in Lackawanna’s First Ward into one of the largest social service agencies in Erie County.

He established two other offices in Lackawanna and one in Buffalo.

In addition to its programs for foster care, substance abuse, youth, seniors and psychiatric patients, it took over Channel 58, a community cable television station in 1993, after Medaille College stopped operating it.

Mr. Hernandez left Friendship House and retired in 1997.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Crystal Acker, and a son, Ralph Jr.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in Thomas T. Edwards Funeral Home, 995 Genesee St.