July 17, 1915 – July 4, 2013

Norman T. Blatner, a World War II veteran, Texaco service station owner and truck driver, died Wednesday in the hospice unit of Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst. He was 97.

Mr. Blatner was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner of war for seven months. He credited his survival to an unusual stroke of luck: One of the guards at the prison camp asked if he was related to the Blatners who owned a store on Greenfield Street in Buffalo.

The store owners were his aunt and uncle. And as it turned out, they were friends with the Buffalo aunt and uncle of the German soldier, who also had visited Buffalo before the war. The guard never said anything, but a few days later Mr. Blatner was transferred to a prison farm where meager provisions – grass soup and stale bread – were enough to help him last until war’s end.

“He wasn’t beaten or worked to death,” said Norm Blatner, the youngest of three sons. “If it wasn’t for this German guard, I don’t know if he would have survived, and I don’t know if I would be here.”

When Mr. Blatner returned to Buffalo, his career was shaped by his life before the war. As a teen, he went to grammar school but did not graduate from high school. Instead, he went to work at a gas station. In 1947 he opened one of the city’s larger Texaco service stations, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Best Street. Mr. Blatner closed the station in the 1950s and began a second career as a Morgan Linens truck driver, delivering to restaurants and businesses. His oldest son, Bill, later reopened the family business – Blatner’s Auto – which is now in North Tonawanda and owned by grandsons.

His golf hobby was also determined in his boyhood. Mr. Blatner caddied at the Buffalo Country Club, winning a set of golf clubs at a caddies tournament. As an adult living in North Buffalo for 57 years, he often played in Delaware Park.

Described as proud and easygoing, Mr. Blatner was a longtime North Buffalo resident and a parishioner of St. Margaret’s Catholic Church. He moved to Williamsville seven years ago.

Survivors include his wife of 71 years, the former Theresa Riccigliano; and three sons, Bill, Richard and Norman.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9 a.m. Monday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court at Maple Road, Amherst. A service with full military honors will follow at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Town of Tonawanda.