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Sept. 15, 1958 – Feb. 19, 2013

As a longtime pilot for United Airlines, Michael C. Lauria spent his days and nights flying planes all over the world.

But he always made it back to his Amherst hometown to attend Mass at Easter and Christmas with his father, Thomas, and mother, Virginia.

“No matter where he was, he would always make sure he could fly back to celebrate Easter and Christmas at St. Gregory the Great Church with his parents,” recalled Mr. Lauria’s cousin, writer and college professor Paul Chimera. “He never missed those services. … Mike was completely devoted to his church and his family.”

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered for Mr. Lauria on Wednesday in St. Gregory the Great Church.

Mr. Lauria, an Air Force veteran who was a flight captain with United Airlines for 27 years, died at one of his homes, in Chicago, after a brief illness. He was 54.

He had homes in Buffalo, Chicago and Tampa, Fla.

Highly respected by fellow pilots, he sometimes spoke as an aviation expert in the Buffalo media, particularly after the horrific Continental Connection Flight 3407 crash that killed 50 people in Clarence Center in 2009.

He also thrived as an investor and business entrepreneur. He was a huge fan of the Buffalo Bills, the artworks of Salvador Dali, and animals. Mr. Lauria was an active volunteer with PAWS Chicago, the largest animal rescue and humane organization there. He was a member of the group’s board.

Known for his unflappable and ambitious nature, Mr. Lauria was a graduate of Canisius High School and Canisius College, where he volunteered as a guest lecturer to business students.

Deeply devoted to his Catholic faith, Mr. Lauria was proud that he once made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a small town in Croatia that has a well-known shrine to the Virgin Mary.

“He literally traveled all over the world, and he was Buffalo’s greatest ambassador,” his brother Thomas Lauria Jr. said of Mr. Lauria. “Michael would tell people everywhere he went how much he loved Buffalo. He loved its food, its restaurants, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and the Buffalo sports teams were always at the top of his list. In his heart, mind and soul, he was a Buffalonian and proud of it.”

After Mr. Lauria’s death of a heart attack, his family found a huge cache of Buffalo Bills merchandise and memorabilia among his possessions, and all those items were donated to charity, Thomas Lauria Jr. said.

He said his brother also loved golf and fishing, and was very proud of a business he started years ago to enable small “mom and pop” businesses to accept credit card transactions.

Surviving, in addition to his parents and his brother, are a sister, Linda Marinucci, and another brother, Dr. Gerald A.