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April 19, 1927 – July 28, 2013

James E. Kuechle, of Getzville, a World War II Navy veteran and retired administrator of the Erie County Home and Infirmary, died Sunday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst. He was 86.

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Kuechle attended Hutchinson-Central High School. He left high school to join the Navy in 1944 and was awarded his diploma upon his return from the war.

During the war, Mr. Kuechle served on a minesweeper. His unit was among those that were sent to clear Tokyo Bay of mines prior to a planned U.S. invasion of Japan in 1944. He and his fellow sailors believed that they were embarking on what was essentially a suicide mission, and they had been trained as such, said Mr. Kuechle’s son, Robert. The U.S. invasion was rendered unnecessary after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hastening Japan’s surrender and Mr. Kuechle’s return to the United States.

His naval service fostered a lifelong interest in ships, and one of his hobbies was building intricate models, including a replica of Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso, a converted World War II wooden-hulled minesweeper, the vessel on which Mr. Kuechle served.

Upon his return from the war, he attended the University of Buffalo, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology. In 1965, he graduated from the University of Toronto with a master’s degree in health administration.

Throughout his career in the health care field, he worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, an assistant administrator at Millard Fillmore Hospital, a member of the nursing home survey team for the Erie County Health Department, executive director at Mount View Hospital and Nursing Home in Lockport and administrator of the Erie County Home and Infirmary in Alden, retiring in 1988.

He was a past president of the Western New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, a member of the state board of that organization and had been honored as nursing home hospital administrator of the year.

Mr. Kuechle married the former Carolyn “Kay” Snyder on Oct. 4, 1956, and they raised five children. She died in August 1997.

In addition to model ship building, he enjoyed traveling. He visited England, Germany and Austria, and took a trip to Belgium to view the trenches where his father fought during World War I.

He enjoyed military history and took a special interest in Adm. Horatio Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar.

In addition to his son, Dr. Robert, survivors include four daughters, Karen Bordonaro, Peggy Ghanime, Joan Sinclair and Cathy MacLean.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Pius X Catholic Church, 1700 North French Road, Getzville.