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Kevin T. Milligan Sr., prominent deaf athlete, longtime teacher lost his hearing as a boy

April 26, 1936 – Jan. 25, 2016

Kevin T. Milligan Sr. of Depew, a deaf athlete hall of famer and a teacher for the deaf, died Monday in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga. He was 79.

Born in Buffalo, the third of 10 children, he lost his hearing at the age of 6 after contracting German measles. He developed his athletic skills on South Buffalo playgrounds and was a 1955 graduate of St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree in education from Lewis and Clark College in Vancouver, Wash.

Mr. Milligan taught for 20 years at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, retiring in 1991.

As a student at St. Mary’s, where illness limited him to two varsity seasons, he scored 700 points and led the basketball team to consecutive Eastern States Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association titles in 1954 and 1955.

He was named a Monsignor Martin Athletic Association All-Catholic player in 1954 and 1955 and won Catholic High School Basketball All-American honors in 1955.

Though he stood just 5 feet, 10 inches, tall, he played varsity basketball for four years at Gallaudet, registering 1,681 points, 22.4 per game, and becoming the leading scorer in school history. He had four games with 40 or more points and set a school record with 47 points in a single game, a record that still stands. He was a two-time Mason-Dixon All-Conference basketball selection.

At Gallaudet, he also played soccer for three years, baseball for two years and ran cross-country for one season to build his endurance for basketball. He was inducted into the Gallaudet Hall of Fame and his jersey number – 24 – was the first in the school to be retired .

Mr. Milligan also led U.S. teams to gold medals in basketball in the 1961 Deaf Olympics in Finland and the Pan American Games for the Deaf in Venezuela in 1975.

He was a member of the 1965 U.S. soccer team that competed in the Deaf Olympiad in Washington, D.C.

In 1981, he received a deaf athlete’s highest honor, induction into the American Athletic Association for the Deaf Hall of Fame.

In all, he was inducted into nine sports halls of fame, including the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.

He was a board member for the Buffalo Club of the Deaf for many years.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, the former Mildred “Millie” Velez; a son, Kevin Jr.; a daughter, Ella Dunne; three sisters, June Ryan, Sally Beacham and Evelyn; and four grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday in Resurrection Catholic Church, 130 Como Park Blvd., Cheektowaga.

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