Peter Tower, customs broker, philanthropist - The Buffalo News

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Peter Tower, customs broker, philanthropist

May 29, 1921 – Feb. 5, 2014

Peter Tower, a retired customs broker and philanthropist, died Wednesday in his East Aurora home. He was 92.

Mr. Tower was president of C.J. Tower & Sons, a licensed U.S. Customs brokerage based in Buffalo and founded by his grandfather in Niagara Falls in 1913.

Mr. Tower was the first customs broker in the nation to use IBM computers to process customs data. He also expanded operations from Detroit to northern Vermont. The company was sold to McGraw-Hill in 1986 and is now FedEx Trade Networks.

Born in Niagara Falls, Mr. Tower attended DeVeaux School, graduated from Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., and attended Cornell University. His passion for flying led him to earn his pilot’s license while at Cornell, as well as his control tower operator’s license.

He joined the Army Air Forces in 1943 and served as an air traffic controller with the 761st Army Air Force Base Unit in Texas and England, attaining the rank of technical sergeant.

Returning from service, he worked briefly as an air traffic controller in Syracuse before joining the family business, starting as a clerk.

He earned his broker’s license in 1949 and became a partner in 1950.

Mr. Tower was named treasurer when the company was incorporated in 1956, then became vice president and president.

When the Niagara Falls and Buffalo branches were merged in 1968, he became president of the combined companies.

He also served on the board of directors of M&T Bank.

In 1990, he and his wife founded the Peter & Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, which supports community agencies in Western New York and eastern Massachusetts working in the fields of mental health, substance abuse and intellectual and learning disabilities.

His wife of 71 years, the former Elizabeth N. “Liz” Clarke, died last year. He is survived by two daughters, Mollie Byrnes and Cynthia “Cindy” Doyle; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

A memorial service will be scheduled.

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