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Peter J. Colavecchia, had open-heart surgery in '72; June 30, 1931 -- April 19, 2012

Peter J. Colavecchia of Lewiston, who was one of the first area residents to undergo open-heart surgery, died Thursday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 80.

Born in Niagara Falls, Mr. Colavecchia graduated from Niagara Falls High School in 1949. He went on to work at various industrial plants in the Niagara Falls area before beginning work for the city's water department in 1952.

In 1960, Mr. Colavecchia became a Niagara Falls firefighter and reached the rank of acting captain until illness forced him to work as an inspector. He was acting chief of fire prevention when he retired in 1986.

Mr. Colavecchia had served as president of the Niagara Falls Fire Department's Mutual Aid Association in the 1970s, vice president of the firefighters credit union and participated in the annual Leo F. Heck Toy Fund Drive.

Besides his firefighting duties, Mr. Colavecchia owned and operated the Stadium Grill in Niagara Falls from 1963 to 1973, where he sponsored many softball teams, including the 1969 state fast-pitch champions.

In 1972, Mr. Colavecchia traveled to Houston to have famed American heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey perform an open-heart surgical operation, which was relatively new at the time.

Mr. Colavecchia was a member and prelate of the Moose Lodge in Niagara Falls.

In retirement, he and his wife lived for six months of the year in Largo, Fla., for about 17 years before eventually selling the Florida home and returning to Niagara Falls full time. Mr. Colavecchia was an avid tennis, racquetball and shuffleboard player.

Surviving is his wife of 61 years, the former Constance Verciglio; a daughter, Paulette Queler; a sister, Ann Worley; and a brother, Joseph.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Vincent DePaul at St. Leo's Church, 2748 Military Road, Niagara Falls.

[PIGNATARO]