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Jan. 2, 1925 – May 25, 2013

NIAGARA FALLS – Joseph Edward DeMarco, of Niagara Falls, a retired Niagara Parks Police captain who took part in numerous rescues and recovery efforts around the Falls, died Saturday in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo after a short illness. He was 88.

Mr. DeMarco was on duty when a whitewater excursion raft capsized with 27 persons aboard, killing three. He also was on duty for three helicopter crashes at the falls, including the 1973 crash of the Jack Prior helicopter as it attempted to rescue three people from rocks above the falls.

“Someone grabbed the undercarriage and tipped the rotors into the rapids,” he told Buffalo News reporter Michael Levy upon his retirement in 1992. “The helicopter crashed and burned. We got into our boat but lost a propeller, so there we were, nine of us in the water. Eventually, the Canadians got a helicopter out to drop a line to us, and we all made it back.”

Born in Niagara Falls, the son of a policeman, he was a graduate of LaSalle Senior High School and enlisted in the Marines in December 1942, attaining the rank of corporal. He fought in World War II for nine months in the Pacific, in the Marshall Islands, Saipan and Tinian, where he was wounded. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Returning home, he began his law enforcement career with the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department in 1947 and joined the Niagara Parks Police in 1948, rising through the ranks as sergeant and lieutenant before he was promoted to captain in 1974, serving as commander of the Niagara Region State Park Police in all the state parks in Erie and Niagara counties.

In addition to his rescue and recovery duties, he accompanied numerous dignitaries around the Falls, including world leaders, royalty and entertainers.

Mr. DeMarco was a 60-year member of Prince of Peace Catholic Church and its successor, St. Vincent de Paul Parish. He was a life member of the 4th Marine Division Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Disabled American Veterans.

He was a member of the Century Club of the American Red Cross blood donor program.

He traveled extensively in the United States and abroad and had a passion for gardening.

He and his wife, the former Margaret Ann Connery, would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in September.

In addition to his wife, survivors include four sons, John, James, Francis and Robert; and two daughters, Mary Saunders and Joanne Daniel.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Vincent de Paul Parish at Prince of Peace Church, 1055 Military Road.