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Sept. 2, 1938 – Dec. 27, 2012

James F. Sorrentino Sr. of the Town of Tonawanda, a high school sports star who later sold sports equipment and apparel to generations of athletes from a store that bore his name, died Thursday in DeGraff Memorial Hospital. He was 74.

A Buffalo native, Mr. Sorrentino attended Bishop Timon High School where he was named All-Catholic in football, baseball and basketball.

In 1978, after working at Al Dekdebrun Sporting Goods for 20 years, he founded Sorrentino’s Sports Center on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda. The business built its reputation on service and product knowledge. His son, Joseph M. Sorrentino, said his father knew he could not compete with the larger chains in the market when it came to pricing, so he found another way.

“He always said, 'We’ll kill ’em with service,’ ” he said.

That included never turning away a kid who came in to buy something but didn’t have enough money.

“Go ahead. But when you come back, don’t forget about me,” he would say, according to his son. “He was a great guy. He was a friend to everybody.”

Sorrentino’s also developed niches that allowed it to continue to thrive. Chances are good that a varsity jacket worn by a local athlete in the Northtowns was worked on at Sorrentino’s, which also handled such services as custom lettering, skate sharpening and relacing baseball gloves.

Mr. Sorrentino is a member of the Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School Sports Hall of Fame. He enjoyed playing and watching sports and being surrounded by his family, including his 15 grandchildren and his one great-grandchild.

In a sad coincidence, he died 14 years to the day after his son James Jr., a Buffalo police officer who died following a traffic accident in Marilla.

In addition to Joseph, Mr. Sorrentino is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Shirley Skeide; a daughter, Ann Marie Bailey; and two other sons, Michael A. and Kevin T.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Monday in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 1085 Englewood Ave., Town of Tonawanda.