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Robert Rich, last of a special breed Food company giant never left Buffalo roots or forgot his love of sports

Seems hard to imagine now, much less duplicate. A University of Buffalo graduate founding a one-horse, two-truck dairy with his father's $5,000 loan in 1937. Seventy years later, with family still in charge, Rich Products Corp. has $2.5 billion in annual sales and 7,000 employees in 85 countries. To paraphrase, is Buffalo a great place or what?

Robert E. Rich Sr. certainly thought so and showed it, for all his 92 years. When he died last week his name was on his company, had been on the home of the Buffalo Bills in their heyday, on the prize given to the best wrestlers at UB and the Harvard Cup MVP award. He was also behind the Triple A baseball Bisons and Dunn Tire Park. He was in the Buffalo and UB sports halls of fame and on the Forbes list of the richest Americans. And it's an easy guess which lists he cared about most.

He was one of the last century's giants. The Rich, Knox, Jacobs, Schoellkopf and Butler families led Buffalo. Their legacies in business, media and arts thrive today, and Rich's overlooks the river from Niagara Street.

Bob Rich Sr. once said his crowning professional achievement was receiving the second Frozen Food Industry Founders Award in 1976. The first went to Clarence Birdseye. But Rich's happiest moment was coaching Riverside High to its first Harvard Cup in 1936.

That blend of a man who built and ran a global business in the decades before the computer required such thinking, and one who knew the names of UB wrestlers 60 years younger than him, speaks to his character. Like so many of his generation, he was a product of vision, hard work and drive to succeed. He gave the same back to his beloved Buffalo.

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