April 25, 1916 – Aug. 30, 2013

Dean E. Becker of Lake View, a retailer, national oil and gas entrepreneur and onetime owner of the Skyway drive-in theaters, died Friday in Mercy Hospital. He was 97.

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Becker graduated from Park School, attended Nichols School and finished his last two years of high school at Culver Military Academy in Indiana.

He returned to Western New York and graduated from the University of Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in business.

He was accepted to Harvard University, but when World War II broke out he decided instead to stay in this area, testing fighter plane engines at Bell Aircraft.

After the war, Mr. Becker led several successful and varied business ventures. He ran Eckhardt Dry Good Retail, a department store founded by his family in 1886, at 950 Broadway, operating it for five years before moving on after leasing the store to Sears, Roebuck & Co.

He then expanded his interests, starting Bonlil Corp., which mined coal in Tennessee, and then Starlite Oil and Gas, which drilled for gas and oil in Canada and Oklahoma.

Locally, he subdivided and developed land his family owned along Old Lake Shore Road in Lake View and also owned the two Skyway drive-in theaters on Lake Shore and Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Mr. Becker enjoyed hunting and was an accomplished horseback rider.

His wife of 61 years, Lily Maecker Becker, died in 1997.

Survivors include two sons, Dean Jr. and John; and a daughter, Bonnie Hesslink.

Services are private.