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Joseph Block, 91, retired Navy captain, former president of T.C. Tanke Jewelers Sept. 17, 1917 -- Oct. 14, 2008

Joseph Block, a retired Navy captain and business leader, died Tuesday from heart complications in his home in Ellicottville. He was 91.

Mr. Block retired in 1988 as president of one of downtown Buffalo's oldest businesses, T.C. Tanke Jewelers. He had joined the family business, which started prior to the Civil War, after returning from service in World War II.

Born in Buffalo, he graduated from Elmwood School, was an honors student at Nichols School and graduated from Cornell University in 1939. After Cornell, he attended Harvard University, where he received a commission in the Navy.

During the war, he was mobilization division commander in Europe, then was officer in charge of the Northern Naval Militia. After the war, he served in the Naval Reserve for 30 years and commanded the joint Naval, Army and Air Force Selective Service Division in Buffalo during the Vietnam War. He was promoted to captain prior to his retirement.

A graduate gemologist from the American Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America, Mr. Block hosted elaborate estate presentations at T.C. Tanke and introduced Rolex and Cartier watches to the area. Tanke also was the first jeweler to carry Pulsar, the pioneering battery-operated watches.

A longtime member of the former Buffalo Chamber of Commerce, he was a past president of the Main Street Association and a member of the board of directors of the Better Business Bureau and the Retail Merchants Association. He also was a member of the Buffalo Executives, the Municipal Research Bureau and the Rotary Club.

A longtime Hamburg resident, Mr. Block was a member of Wanakah Country Club for more than 30 years and served as an officer and a member of the board of directors. He also was a former member of the Buffalo Athletic Club.

His wife of 53 years, Elsie Williams Block, whom he met while she was an officer in the British Navy during World War II, died in 1998.

Surviving are a son, Arthur Joseph II, and two daughters, Rodney Danforth and Robin Bissell.

The family will hold a private memorial service.


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