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April 29, 1934 – Oct. 24, 2013

Mary Catherine Kabasakalian, a former mayor of North Tonawanda who was a driving force behind a search-and-rescue helicopter for the region, died Thursday in Northgate Manor Health Care Facility, Wheatfield. She was 79.

Born Mary Blarr, she was a founder and treasurer of the North Tonawanda City Employees Credit Union. She also served on the city’s Charter Revision Committee.

In 1999, Ms. Kabasakalian narrowly won the Republican primary for mayor of North Tonawanda, then defeated incumbent Ronald R. Dawson in the general election. She served as mayor from 2000 until 2002.

“I take this job seriously,” she said prior to the 2001 election, before the mayor’s job was elevated to full-time status. “I’m not here part time, I’m here full time. On the average day, I arrive at City Hall at 7:30 a.m., and I’m very lucky if I get home before 10 p.m.”

She lost the 2001 GOP primary for mayor; she appeared on only the Liberal Party line in the general election and failed to win re-election.

Her son, David Alesse, drowned in 1987 in the Lower Niagara River while fishing. Mrs. Kabasakalian went on to help collect 10,000 signatures for a search-and-rescue helicopter to serve both Erie and Niagara counties. As a result, Erie County got the first of its helicopters, and then-Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins presented her with a certificate of appreciation for her effort on behalf of the project.

Her husband, Alfred “Kab” Kabasakalian, died in 1999.

She is survived by two sons, Donald and Thomas; a daughter, Carol Griffith; two sisters, Barbara and Ada; and two brothers, Joseph and Donald.

A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.