Oct. 1, 1924 – April 30, 2013
Joseph R. Pace, a veteran Williamsville South High School chemistry teacher who retired early to become the golf pro at Audubon Golf Club in Amherst, died Tuesday in his Amherst home after a lengthy illness. He was 88.
A South Buffalo native, Mr. Pace graduated from South Park High School in 1942 and was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Forces shortly thereafter. During World War II, he trained as a pilot but ended up serving stateside, in the Army Air Forces Band, because of his prowess as a musician.
He played the clarinet, as well as most woodwind and brass instruments, and the piano, organ and drums. He was so accomplished that his graduating class at the University of Miami selected him to conduct the school orchestra during his commencement ceremony in 1950. He graduated with a double major in chemistry and music from the school.
Mr. Pace joined the Johnny Long Big Band after graduation and traveled the Midwest and upstate New York as a “utility man,” playing a variety of wind instruments.
He landed a job at Williamsville South two years later and taught hundreds of students chemistry during a career that spanned nearly 30 years.
“We had the best science projects when we were kids,” said Jodi Gelia, one of his two daughters.
Mr. Pace received a master’s degree from the University at Buffalo in the midst of his teaching career and was a longtime school golf coach. He helped hone the skills of several students who went on to become local champions and golf pros, and the school team won three-quarters of its matches and six divisional championships while he was head coach from 1968 to 1981.
“I had a good bunch of kids. They were a joy to work with,” Mr. Pace said shortly before his death.
During those coaching years, his love for the sport intensified, and he retired from teaching in 1981 at age 55 to become golf pro at the town-owned Audubon Golf Course. He served in that capacity for six years but was a fixture at the course long after that in a variety of ways, including for a time as president of the club. His best score was a 69 at Cazenovia Park Golf Course; he considered the Park Country Club course the best in the region.
He enjoyed hunting, fishing, painting and traveling to Florida with his family.
“He was a true Renaissance man,” said his other daughter, Mary Beth Nasca.
Mr. Pace was a longtime member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, the former Mary Jane Jerard, and his two daughters.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 1 p.m. Monday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, off Maple Road, Amherst.