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Robert J. Heffern, retired social studies teacher active in Holocaust education

Aug. 21, 1940 – March 2, 2016

Robert J. Heffern, a retired social studies teacher, died March 2 in his Buffalo home after a long struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 75.

Born in Buffalo, he was a 1958 graduate of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Canisius College. He later took graduate courses at the University at Buffalo.

Mr. Heffern began his teaching career in 1964-65 as a volunteer for the Catholic Church Extension Society in Charleston, Mo. He returned to Buffalo to teach for three years at Bishop Turner High School, then went to Maryvale High School in Cheektowaga in 1968.

At Maryvale, he was chairman of the Social Studies Department, was involved with numerous student activities and was coach of the girls basketball team. After he retired in 2001, he taught as an adjunct at Canisius College and Daemen College. He also tutored youngsters for a number of inner-city programs.

In retirement, he also served the homeless at Little Portion Friary, was parish chairman for Voice Buffalo at St. Joseph-University Catholic Church, was a board member of the Western New York Holocaust Resource Center where he has chairman of the Education Committee, and was co-chairman of Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County.

He was given the Ned Mathias Award (the Unsung Hero Award) by the Friends of the West Side Rowing Club and the Toby Ticktin Back Award by the Holocaust Resource Center for his work in helping educators teach about the Holocaust.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, the former Kathleen Byron; a son, Dennis; three daughters, Molly Marcinelli, Maureen Heffern Ponicki and Julie Doyle; a sister, Jean Luther; two brothers, Richard and John; and eight grandchildren.

A Memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in St. Joseph-University Church, 3269 Main St.

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