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Feb. 21, 1935 - June 17, 2014

Peter J. Notaro, who rose from being a star high school athlete to become one of the Buffalo area’s top prosecutors and a widely respected judge, died unexpectedly Tuesday of a stroke. He was 79.

Mr. Notaro was pursued as a prospective player for a number of National Football League teams before he opted instead for a career in law.

He retired in 2005 after serving for nearly 14 years as a justice of state Supreme Court. He was an Erie County Family Court judge from 1975 until he was elected to the state bench in 1992.

Mr. Notaro grew up on Buffalo’s West Side and while attending Bishop Fallon High School on an academic scholarship became a star of that school’s football, baseball and basketball teams, scoring the winning basket in its triple-overtime basketball victory over Canisius High School months before he graduated in 1952. In 2002, he was inducted as one of the six members of the inaugural class of the Bishop Fallon Alumni Association Hall of Fame.

As a University of Buffalo student, he was a two-way offense and defensive lineman for three years on its football team and a pitcher on the UB baseball team. In 1956, the year he graduated from UB, he was selected as a defensive tackle on the Williamson Little All-American Football team.

After college graduation he was offered training camp tryouts with the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Colts of the NFL, but he choose to get a master’s degree in biology at UB and obtained his law degree at UB Law in 1961.

As a young lawyer, he worked at the Buffalo law firms of Boreanaz, Heffron and Doyle and Weissfeld and Weissfeld, and in 1964 he was hired as an assistant district attorney for the newly elected Erie County District Attorney Michael F. Dillon, the first Democrat to capture that post in decades.

Until Mr. Notaro was elected to the Erie County Family Court bench in 1975, he gained a reputation as a hard-charging felony trial prosecutor, chief of Dillon’s Narcotics Bureau and chief of the Appeals Bureau and for his last three years in the prosecutor’s office as first deputy district attorney.

When Mr. Notaro was re-elected to the Family Court bench in 1985, he was named supervising judge of the domestic affairs court. He was elected to the Supreme Court in 1992.

Active as a coach in the Williamsville baseball and football little leagues in the 1970s and 1980s, he was a longtime member of Transit Valley Country Club.

Survivors include his wife of nearly 55 years, the former Diana Marie Gennuso, who he met when they were both 12 years old on Buffalo’s West Side; five sons, Thomas, Peter, Mark, Anthony and Joseph; a brother, Carmen; and 11 grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Friday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court at Maple Road, Amherst, after prayers at 9:45 in Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive, Amherst.

– Matt Gryta