on May 22, 2014 - 7:19 PM
Dec. 8, 1924 – May 16, 2014
Paul M. De Gal, of Hamburg, a retired Buffalo police officer, Navy veteran of World War II and Korea and a founding member and past commander of Post 1419,Veterans of Foreign Wars, died unexpectedly last Friday at home under hospice care. He was 89.
Born in New York City Mr. De Gal enlisted in the Navy at age 16 in July 1941. During World War II, he was stationed on several diesel submarines in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
After the war, while serving in the Navy Reserve, he settled in San Francisco.
Reactivated during the Korean War, Mr. De Gal taught submarine school stateside. While instructing a superior officer in the torpedo room, he was permanently injured when the officer unwittingly caused an explosion.
He left the Navy in 1952 and worked for American Airlines, Ford Motor Co. and shipping companies loading trucks.
In 1958, after returning to the East Coast, he became a Buffalo police officer until his retirement in 1986.
One of the many highlights of his career occurred on a frigid winter evening.
Mr. De Gal dived into Cazenovia Creek and pulled out two teenage girls who were trapped in a vehicle that had crashed through the ice.
He resuscitated one of the girls and saved both of their lives.
Another time, while breaking up a skirmish in the Emergency Room parking lot at the old E.J. Meyer Memorial Hospital, he was stabbed in the ribs.
Mr. De Gal married Ann E. Klink in 1958. She died in 2003.
In 1973, he and a small group of World War II veterans founded VFW Post 1419 in Hamburg. He served as its first commander.
Today, the post has nearly 630 members, ranging from World War II through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
He was the New York State commander of the Submarine Veterans for several years and was instrumental in bringing the USS Croaker to the Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.
A member of St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church, he served as an usher for several years and sat on the committee to raise funds to build a new church.
Surviving are three daughters, Michelle Zielinski, Carol Hesketh and NorinneDe Gal; two sons, Paul Murray and Thomas; a brother, Fred; a sister, Joan; and nine grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Thursday in St. Mary of the Lake Church, Hamburg.