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Peter Richard Elia, business owner

Nov. 2, 1929 – July 18, 2016

Peter Richard Elia of Williamsville, an independent businessman, died Monday under hospice care at Beechwood Continuing Care. He was 86.

Born in Niagara Falls, Mr. Elia graduated from Niagara Falls High School in 1947 and attended Niagara University.

He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1950-54.

After owning a gas station and working for Amex, Mr. Elia opened Frontier Duty Free of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. He traveled around the country and internationally to get off-brand products to compete with other duty-free stores. Amex bought his store in the late 1960s, and he continued working for that firm.

He opened other businesses with his wife, Mary, in the mid-1960s, including the Frontier Motor Lodge and the Peace Bridge Center, which was one of the biggest nightclubs in Buffalo.

He enjoyed running at the YMCA in Buffalo and playing racquetball at the University Club. He was active in local and state politics and participated in the campaigns of Mayor James D. Griffin, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Sen. Alphonse D’Amato.

Mr. Elia was devoted to the New York Yankees and idolized Joe DiMaggio. He also loved jazz music and Frank Sinatra.

When his wife, the former Mary DiMuzio, became ill, he transitioned out of business to take care of her. They had been married 56 years when she died in 2014.

Survivors include his daughter, Diane Walter; and son, Anthony Robert Elia.

A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Saturn Club, 977 Delaware Ave.

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