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Harold J. Knittel Jr., photographer and contractor

April 24, 1929 – Sept. 12, 2016

Harold J. Knittel Jr., of Orchard Park, a retired home improvement contractor and photographer, died Monday in GreenField Continuing Care Community, Lancaster, after a lengthy illness. He was 87.

Born in Buffalo, he worked as a freelance photographer after graduating from Buffalo Technical High School, selling photos to The Buffalo Evening News and the Buffalo Courier-Express.

Drafted into the Army during the Korean War, he served in the Signal Corps and directed military aircraft at air bases. Stationed in Panmunjom, North Korea, during the peace talks, he met then-President Elect Dwight Eisenhower and sent back photos to The News.

Returning from service, he was one of the first employees at WGR-TV, where he was a cameraman and film editor. Continuing as a freelance photographer, he also worked for the newly organized Buffalo Bills.

Mr. Knittel put aside his career behind the camera to become a home improvement contractor in the early 1960s and did hundreds of additions, remodeling projects and fire repairs. He also built homes, including one that he constructed for his family in Orchard Park. He retired in 1999.

His daughter, Joanne M. Krickovich, said he was known for his attention to detail. “He liked things perfect,” she said, “and done a certain way.”

A member of the Western New York Snowmobile Club, he received an award for helping fire department rescue operations during the Blizzard of 1977, bringing oxygen to those in need.

He sponsored and coached a youth baseball team in the Maryvale Little League.

A member of the Lionel Collectors Club of America, he maintained one of the largest Lionel train collections in the area, dating back to his boyhood. He also collected sports memorabilia.

He was an avid fan of the New York Yankees, attended two Notre Dame football games annually and traveled throughout the country for concerts by singer Anne Murray.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 59 years, the former Patricia A. Pasternak; a son, Harold J. III; a sister, Lorraine Zelasko; and five grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday in Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 26 Thorn Ave., Orchard Park.

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