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James K. Becker, jeweler, volunteer social worker

March 16, 1954 – Sept. 13, 2015

James K. Becker, a longtime jeweler who had a second career as a volunteer social worker, died Sunday in Erie County Medical Center after a long battle with cancer. He was 61.

The Buffalo native was a graduate of McKinley High School in 1972 and began working in the jewelry business at age 19.

He spent nearly 30 years as a jeweler and worked as regional manager for the East Coast operations of Gordon’s Jewelers, a national chain, prior to retiring.

He returned to college and received a bachelor’s degree in social work from SUNY Buffalo State in 2003. He then did volunteer social work for four years with Child & Family Services, a local human services agency, at Lincoln Academy School 44.

“He was offered a paid position. He refused it. He just wanted to help families and children,” said his sister, Bonita.

In his spare time, Mr. Becker enjoyed gardening, and his home on North Pearl Street was featured in the annual Garden Walk.

In addition to his sister, other survivors include a son, Adam, and a daughter, Amanda Varelakis; two brothers, Clayton and Robert; and a longtime partner, Peter Szczap.

A burial service will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in Lombardo Funeral Home, 885 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst.

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