on August 17, 2014 - 7:24 PM
Jan. 24, 1928 – Aug. 14, 2014
Louis R. “Sonny” Palma, a U.S. Navy and Air Force veteran who served as a Town of Evans councilman and as deputy county clerk in Erie County, died Thursday in his Hamburg home. He was 86.
Mr. Palma was born in Buffalo and moved with his family to Derby as a youngster. He attended Hamburg High School but left before graduating to enlist in the Navy during World War II.
When he returned to the high school to give a talk in 2007, he was presented with a diploma in a surprise ceremony, said his wife, Sharon.
In 2012, Mr. Palma told The Buffalo News that he enlisted at age 15, using the birth certificate of an older brother who had died soon after birth and a forged permission slip from his father.
He served in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1946, seeing action at Saipan, Okinawa, Guam and the Philippines as a rear gunner on an Avenger torpedo bomber.
After returning home, he studied for two years at Canisius College toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration. But his education was again interrupted when he was recalled to active duty and assigned to the carrier USS Philippine Sea off the coast of Korea until 1952.
In 1953, after his discharge from the Navy, Mr. Palma enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He received his diploma from Canisius in 1955.
During his time in the Air Force, he was a flight engineer during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1988.
Mr. Palma was an accounting supervisor at the General Motors Chevrolet plant in Buffalo from 1959 to 1963, and he later operated his own accounting firm.
He served as an Evans councilman from 1962 to 1966 and again from 1968 to 1972.
He was an Evans Republican committeeman for more than 35 years, serving as the committee chairman from 1997 to 2009. He was deputy Erie County clerk from 1969 to 1975.
From 1975 to 1982 he was the administration and fiscal officer for the federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act programs.
In 1982, Mr. Palma became the business administrator for the Lake Shore Central school system, and in 2000 he was appointed director of Erie County Veterans Services.
He was a life member of the Highland Hose Volunteer Fire Co. and a commissioner for the North Evans Fire District for 15 years.
Besides his wife, Mr. Palma is survived by a son, Hank Palma; a daughter, LuAnn Palma-Smith; and four sisters, Carmella Teichman, MaryAnn Hagarty, Elaine Chudzik and Betty Evans.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday in Saint John Paul II Parish Community, 2052 Lakeview Road, Lake View.