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Albert Scott, co-founded Maritime Charter School Jan. 29, 1918 -- July 10, 2007

Albert Scott had a simple recruiting message when he walked up to young gang members who proudly wore their gang colors in Black Rock and Riverside and on the East Side.

"We're trying to save your little brothers and sisters from the life you have," he'd tell them. "Will you help us?"

Mr. Scott was recruiting kids for his beloved Western New York Maritime Charter School -- and he was doing it in his mid-80s.

Didn't he fear for his personal safety?

"I'm too old to worry about stuff like that," he'd answer, according to Kevin Burke, another of the charter school's founders. "They can't hurt me."

Mr. Scott died Tuesday in Buffalo General Hospital following a long illness. He was 89.

"He was a fearless guy," said Richard H. Gordon, a cousin by marriage. "He even jumped from a plane at age 60."

A Buffalo native, Mr. Scott grew up on the West Side and graduated from Lafayette High School. After serving in both the U.S. Navy and Army in Europe during World War II, he returned to Buffalo and was active in the Naval Reserve.

As a volunteer leader with the Sea Cadets, a naval education program for kids 11 to 17, Mr. Scott became regional director, established a Sea Cadet's boot camp in Pennsylvania, arranged for the cadets to use a 50-foot boat at the foot of Porter Avenue and got the Navy SEALS to train the cadets in summer sessions in Virginia.

While working with young people, he learned that many inner-city kids needed a combination of education and discipline. He convinced the Navy to support the Maritime Charter School, and along with three other founders, he obtained a charter from Albany and rented a building for the school on Genesee Street near Michigan Avenue.

This spring, the school dedicated its yearbook to Mr. Scott. The dedication states that he often walked the halls of the school and chatted with faculty, staff and students.

"He always has the time to listen to us and help us with any concerns we have," the dedication said. "Thank you, Mr. Scott, for your dedication to our country and your belief in our school."

In business, Mr. Scott worked as a ship chandler, before buying and operating Gordon Provision on Buffalo's waterfront, starting in 1971.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, the former Ruth Szpakowski. Services will be at 11 a.m. today in Amherst Memorial Chapel, 281 Dodge Road.

Two weeks ago, Burke visited Mr. Scott in the hospital and asked him whether he had a message for the people at the school.

"Just let them know I'm so damn proud," he replied.

-- Gene Warner

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