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MAURICE GAVIN, HELPED WISHES COME TRUE

It was in keeping with Maurice D. Gavin's compassion and philosophy of life that there was no burial to follow his memorial Mass Saturday in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Orchard Park.

There was no burial for the retired state trooper and director of the Former Troopers Helping Hands program, because he had made arrangements to donate his body to the University at Buffalo Medical School.

Gavin, 75, who was born and raised on Potter Road in South Buffalo, died Tuesday (Jan. 30, 2001) in his Orchard Park residence, apparently of a heart attack.

He had been working on Former Troopers Helping Hands projects when he put his head on his desk as if taking a nap. He died at his desk.

The man known as "Morey" had devoted much of his time since his retirement in 1979 to the organization whose cash and energy are directed at satisfying what all too often are the last playtime wishes of seriously ill boys and girls.

Most of the hundreds of children helped by the former troopers over the years have been victims of cancer.

Gavin once explained to News Staff Reporter Bob Buyer, now retired, that many of the wishes were for "trips to Walt Disney World, but some ask for something else -- a trip to a concert, time away from the hospital or to converse with a celebrity.

"When the wish is granted, we send the whole family," he said.

Gavin, who joined the New York State Police in 1950, gained a reputation for helping people, prompting one friend to comment: "What would Morey do if no one was sick or dying?"

He was a trooper for eight years before becoming an investigator. He was promoted to senior investigator in 1962. He retired in 1979, taking pride that he had discharged his pistol only once in the line of duty.

"Thank God I missed," he said.

The focus of his life shifted after his retirement to helping families cope with the terminal illnesses of their children. He helped them make wishes come true. He later would cry when some of the youngsters died.

Gavin, who also worked for a steel fabrication plant and for the South Buffalo Railway as a young man, and his close friend, Gregory B. Wildridge of Lancaster, also a retired State Police officer, incorporated under the name of Former Troopers Helping Hands in 1986 even though they had been fulfilling wishes for several years.

Wildridge, also a director of the organization sponsored by the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Association of Former New York State Troopers, said Gavin took pride in that they had no paid staff and that it was not unusual for Gavin to personally deliver the spending money to families going on wish trips.

"He wanted to donate his body to the medical school in hopes it could be used to find a cure for terminal illnesses in children," Wildridge said. "Believe me, he took them all personally."

It was significant to friends that the recessional hymn at the memorial Mass for Gavin was "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." The former altar boy who occasionally was assigned the early Mass at Mount Mercy Convent for alleged punitive reasons was known for his "smiling" eyes when he made wishes come true for hurting youngsters.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, the former Annabelle Stefanick; two daughters, Mary of West Seneca and Colleen of Poestenkill; three sons, Maurice Jr. of East Aurora, Michael of Hamburg and Joseph of Conesus; a sister, Jane Jacobi of Orchard Park; two brothers, Robert of Buffalo and William of Largo, Fla.; and nine grandchildren.

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