John A. Cerra, World War II veteran, businessman, saxophonist - The Buffalo News

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John A. Cerra, World War II veteran, businessman, saxophonist

Feb. 2, 1918 – Nov. 9, 2013

John A. Cerra of North Tonawanda, a World War II Army Air Forces veteran, an entrepreneur who founded two companies and an avid saxophone player, died Saturday in Weinberg Campus. He was 95.

Mr. Cerra was born in Jamestown and worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. He was living in North Tonawanda and playing saxophone in a band with some buddies when the United States entered World War II. He and his pals all put down their instruments and enlisted, said his daughter, Lauren Cerra.

Mr. Cerra enrolled in Army Air Force aircraft maintenance school in New Jersey, and after training, he was assigned to Duxford, England, with the 8th Air Force. In his three years in Duxford, he worked on P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs of the 78th Fighter Group. He also attended anti-aircraft gunnery school in Ireland. He played in the Army Thunderbolt Band, which traveled all over Europe. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of sergeant.

While working at Bell Aircraft, Mr. Cerra “was quite an entrepreneur,” said his daughter. Mr. Cerra founded the original Niagara Gear Corp. in Buffalo while working for Bell, then founded Involute Gear Tools in North Tonawanda upon his retirement from Niagara Gear Corp.

Mr. Cerra was an avid fisherman who enjoyed golf. He played his saxophone in a local swing band called the Kentones and was a member of the Player’s Club and the North Tonawanda Renaissance Club.

Besides his daughter Lauren, Mr. Cerra is survived by his wife, the former Victoria Barbaritano; two other daughters, Barbara Fontana and Pamela Daigler; a son, John J.; and a sister, Josephine DeLuca.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Jude the Apostle Church, 800 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda.

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