Throughout 2013, we came to understand again and again how our departed friends and family members made our lives happier and fuller through their work, their knowledge and their care and concern. The deaths of local public figures during the past year have had a similar, but broader impact, a sense that while some cherished part of our collective personality and community fabric is no longer with us, their character and their contributions will live on. Here are some of those who made a mark on us:
Stanley J. Keysa, 69, died March 24. The son of Lancaster’s longest-serving town supervisor, he held that office himself for seven terms and served in town and county government for four decades as member and chairman of numerous boards, including the county’s fiscal control board.
John W. Farrell Jr., 63, died March 25. A leading FM radio disc jockey during the heyday of album rock in the 1970s, his laid-back style and dry humor were perfectly suited for his late-night shifts at WYSL-FM, which became WPHD-FM; and later on WBUF-FM; and WZIR-FM.
Larry Felser, 80, died April 24. The lead sports writer at The Buffalo News for 25 years, he was admired for his toughness, fairness and finesse in his coverage of the Bills from their opening season in 1960 until he retired in 2001 and his reports from each of first 35 Super Bowls.
Frank A. Sedita Jr., 78, died June 16. The son of a Buffalo mayor and father of the current Erie County district attorney, he served as an assistant city corporation counsel, a City Court judge, a Family Court judge and a Housing Court judge, where he cracked down dramatically on slumlords before winning a seat on the State Supreme Court bench.
Appleton “Tony” Fryer, 86, died June 25. Along with his success as owner of Duo-Fast of Western New York, a distributor of compressed air equipment, he was honorary consul general of Japan and a leading architectural preservationist. He was the founder and first president of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier.
Margarete Scharf, 90, died July 25. Arriving in Buffalo from Germany in 1957, she bought an East Side tavern 10 years later and turned it into the popular Scharf’s Schiller Park Restaurant, re-creating the recipes of her homeland, notably potato pancakes, and establishing one of the area’s first Oktoberfest celebrations.
Myron M. Hunt, 87, died July 30. Son of the founder of Hunt Real Estate, he branched out to establish his own company in the early 1960s and became one of the pioneer developers of shopping centers, creating more than 3 million square feet of retail projects.
Sidney J. Parnes, 91, died Aug. 19. Partnering with advertising executive Alex Osborn in the mid-1950s to develop the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem-Solving Process, based on Osborn’s brainstorming techniques, he established the first master’s degree program in creativity at Buffalo State College and made Buffalo a worldwide center for creative studies.
Barbara Spivey (Barbara St. Clair), 71, died Sept. 4. A Buffalo Music Hall of Famer known as “Buffalo’s Queen of Soul” for her Aretha Franklin-like stylings, she began singing with R&B groups in the early 1960s and delighted listeners as the focal point of the Pin-Kooshins, the Houserockers and, for the past 20 years, the Shadows.
Salustiano “Shorty” Sanchez, 112, died Sept. 13. Born in Spain, his long life took him from the sugar cane fields of Cuba to the coal mines of Kentucky and a job at Union Carbide in Niagara Falls, then gave him a final moment in the spotlight as the world’s oldest man following the death of a 116-year-old in Japan on June 12.
James V. Arcadi, 72, died Oct. 12. A major political figure on Buffalo’s West Side, he followed up a stint as Democratic majority leader in the Erie County Legislature in the 1970s with a career as an attorney and staff member of the county Surrogate’s Court.
Ettore C. Porreca, 92, died Oct. 19. A professional photographer acclaimed for his wedding portraits and his images of postwar Japan, his bridal photos were enlarged to poster size and displayed from the 1950s to the 1970s in the upscale Tegler’s shop, then were rediscovered earlier this year and shown in the Buffalo History Museum.
“Papa” Emile Latimer, 79, died Oct. 23. A percussionist who specialized in African hand drumming, he accompanied notables such Nina Simone and Richie Havens and was a mainstay of the local music scene for decades, sharing his skills and spirituality as he sat in with numerous groups and mentored hundreds of young players.
Bill Mazer, 92, died Oct. 23. Nicknamed “Amazin’ ” for his encyclopedic knowledge of facts and figures, the broadcaster who pioneered sports talk radio when he went to New York City in 1964 already was a legend after 16 years on radio and television here in Buffalo, where he was the “Voice of the Bisons.”
Werner Joseph “Babe” Birrer, 84, died Nov. 19. One of the legends of Buffalo baseball, he pitched for the Bisons for nine seasons in the 1950s and 1960s, including the last game in Offermann Stadium, and was one of the few locally born players ever to make the team’s roster.
Arthur F. “Art” Kubera, 89, died Nov. 19. An accordionist, bandleader and music teacher, he turned his Fillmore Avenue studio into a musical instrument store and a mecca for generations of local players whose careers he fostered by allowing them to take equipment home and pay for it on credit.
Spiro T. Liaros, 84, died Dec. 9. The son of the founder of Ted’s Hot Dogs, Buffalo’s favorite hot dog stand, he took over in the 1960s and built a chain of eight shops here and one in Arizona, spreading the love of charbroiled Sahlen’s franks and providing jobs for a generation of workers who went and opened restaurants of their own.
John J. Phelan, 86, died Dec. 9. A civic leader and preservationist, he was a major political figure in the 1970s, when he held top legal posts with Sen. Jacob K. Javits and State Senate Majority Leader Earl W. Brydges. He wrote the legislation that created Artpark, but he is best remembered for his unsuccessful run for Buffalo mayor against Jimmy Griffin in 1977.
Boyd Lee Dunlop, 87, a jazz pianist who was a member of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, died Dec. 27. Dunlop, who played with such greats as Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, Lena Horne and Charles Mingus, enjoyed a career rebirth while living in a local nursing home when he recorded two albums of his original music, one in 2011 and the other this year.