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Nov. 9, 1924 - April 26, 2013

At a time when five and dime stores were going out of business, Robert S. Vidler Jr. and his younger brother, Edward, took over their father’s dry goods emporium on Main Street in East Aurora. Over decades, the brothers turned Vidler’s 5 & 10 into a beloved icon.

Late last month, Mr. Vidler died at his home in Ithaca. He was 88.

The Vidler brothers had worked to keep their business strong and their customers happy.

They expanded their space for toys, lunch boxes, stationery, sewing supplies and kitchen goods by buying three store fronts when those businesses closed, said Sue Rakow, his daughter.

“It was just a real deep desire to keep the store going that their father had begun,” she said. “Both he and his brother loved the store. They loved East Aurora.”

Rakow grew up working in the store with her sisters and cousins, including Beverly and Donald Vidler, who now manage the business. They were all encouraged to help customers and would often take the time to write letters for customers with developmental disabilities who came from a nearby home.

“I remember him sitting in the back. We’d run back and talk to him. He was a big part of our growing up,” she said. “He knew everybody, talked to everyone. It was like a community center. His people skills and his caring and kindness were his overriding qualities.”

As a young man, Vidler attended Penn State University for one year before enlisting in the Navy during World War II and started officer training at Cornell University’s Hotel School.

He was a supply officer on a submarine chaser, earned the rank of lieutenant and in subsequent years took charge of organizing shipmate reunions.

He served on the Village Board for several terms and was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce. He also loved the Welland Canal in Ontario and kept track of the ships he saw go through it.

He delighted in working at the annual Kiwanis Club chicken barbecues in Hamlin Park – so much so that the family procured the recipe for the dish so that Rakow could continue to make it for him once he moved to Ithaca in 2004 with Rakow’s stepmother, Alice Jean.

“We’d make the East Aurora chicken barbecue for him, and he loved it,” said Rakow.

He is survived by his brother Edward and two daughters, Rakow and Phebe Cook. His daughter Ann Fates died at 63 on April 19, a week before he did.

A burial for Vidler with military honors is planned July 12 in Sampson Veterans Cemetery, Romulus.

A reception is being planned for July 13 in East Aurora.