Sept. 25, 1924 – March 14, 2014
Stanley H. Zagora, a major figure in Erie County politics for more than two decades, died Friday after a brief stay in Beechwood Nursing Home, Getzville. He was 89.
Democrat Zagora presided as chairman of the Erie County Legislature in the early 1980s while organizing with the Republicans in a controversial move. But many of those who served with him in the Legislature, and before that on the Board of Supervisors, fondly recall those days.
“In my eyes, his word was his bond, and that meant a lot,” said George K. Arthur, a former Board of Supervisors colleague who went on to become president of the Buffalo Common Council.
Born and raised on the city’s Polish East Side, Mr. Zagora attended Hutchinson-Central High School until he was 16, dropping out to work full time for the family business – Modern Auto and Home Supply.
“He worked there from when he was 6 years old,” recalled his daughter Cynthia Bellavia. “They used to have him dusting the batteries.”
Later, Mr. Zagora sold advertising for the Polish Everybody’s Daily newspaper and dabbled in insurance before joining the city Law Department as a civil servant.
He spent most of his civil service career with the Buffalo Sewer Authority.
But Mr. Zagora will be best remembered as an elected official, first winning a term on the Board of Supervisors from the 10th Ward in 1965.
He then served in the new County Legislature, eventually becoming chairman of the Budget Committee, majority leader and chairman.
He was county personnel commissioner under then-County Executive Edward J. Rutkowski from 1982 to 1987.
Over the years, Mr. Zagora was also active in several parishes throughout the community, most recently as an usher at SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Williamsville.
He was a member of the board of directors of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, the Chopin Singing Society, the Professional and Businessman’s Association and St. Joseph Intercommunity Hospital.
He was also a board member of the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, Crisis Services, the Buffalo Area Council on Alcoholism, the Niagara Frontier Folk Art Council, the Polish Community Center and Blue Cross of WNY, among many others.
He traveled extensively during his retirement.
Mr. Zagora was married for 54 years to Grace Petti Zagora, who died in 2004.
Besides his daughter Cynthia Bellavia, he is survived by four other daughters, Marilyn, Beverly, Paula, and Janice Larson; a son, James; a brother, Robert; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in SS. Peter & Paul Church, 5480 Main St., Williamsville.