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Alexander C. Schlehr, 102, one of the nation's few remaining combat veterans of World War I, died Thursday (Sept. 23, 1999) at the Oakwood Health Care Center after a short illness.

The South Buffalo native, who lived in Basset Manor Adult Care Home in Amherst, was the grandson of a first lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War. His son served in the Army during World War II, and a grandson saw duty in Lebanon.

In 1917, when Schlehr heard some of his friends talking about volunteering for the armed forces, he didn't hesitate, according to a story appearing Memorial Day in The Buffalo News. Said Schlehr:

"I was naive. I just went ahead and joined. From what I could see, the German Army was trying to take over Europe, and if they did that, the U.S. would be next. I read about the Germans breaking through the French lines and killing 20,000 soldiers. All the boys in my neighborhood started talking about joining the Army, and we all did. We didn't know any better."

Schlehr said he had only three days of training before the Army put him on a troopship bound for France to serve as a combat engineer with the 59th Pioneer Infantry. He recalled that he quickly found himself entrenched near the front lines of the Argonne Forest, where some of the heaviest fighting took place.

After the war, he drove a truck for a while and then founded the A.C. Schlehr Advertising Co., which he passed on to a relative when he retired. The company no longer exists.

Schlehr, who lived on Rugby Road in North Buffalo for many years until he moved to the Basset Manor three years ago, attributed his longevity to "clean living" and taking long walks with his wife, the former Helen Schwend, who died in 1982.

He was proud in his later years to have been honored by the French government with a medal of honor in recognition of his contribution to the war effort.

Of 4.7 million American men and women who took part in the conflict, only 3,200 are estimated to be still alive.

Survivors include three daughters, Phyllis Schilling of Indiantown, Fla., and Janice Merrick and Patricia Frizelle, both of Amherst; a son, Paul R. of the Town of Tonawanda; 17 grandchildren; and 26 great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Monday in St. Margaret's Catholic Church, 1395 Hertel Ave. Burial will be in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Town of Tonawanda.


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