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Michael Maloney, top ALS treatment advocate in WNY, dies at 65

June 7, 1951 – Feb. 3, 2017

Michael J. Maloney, who worked closely with families as he helped lead some of the region’s top senior living communities, and who became known in recent years for his advocacy and fundraising for ALS research and treatment, died early Friday from a complication of the neurodegenerative condition, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 65.

The initial shock of his diagnosis in August 2012 gave way to determination, Mr. Maloney wrote in a piece he shared with The Buffalo News in August 2014.

“My fear of tomorrow could not rob me of today,” he wrote. “With that belief and with the love and support of my family and friends I have found a new energy for life. What I found was a deeper appreciation for the everyday. I no longer look too far ahead. My bucket list isn’t exotic; it’s rather simple – enjoying the people and things that have been part of my life for more than 60 years. You see, it all really comes down to that – the people we have touched and those who have touched us.”

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Maloney was a 1969 graduate of Bishop Turner High School and 1973 graduate of Niagara University. He lived in Cheektowaga for about 40 years.

Michael J. Maloney

He spent his professional career promoting the needs of elders in Western New York. He began his work at the Bristol Home in 1974 and served as executive director there from 1980 to 1992. He served as administrator of Sacred Heart Home/Brothers of Mercy from 1992 to 1999, associate director of Canterbury Woods from 1999 to 2001, executive director of The GreenFields/Niagara Lutheran community from 2001 to 2007 and as the founding executive director of Fox Run at Orchard Park from 2007 until his retirement in 2014. In leading the openings of Canterbury Woods, GreenField Court and Manor, and Fox Run at Orchard Park, he oversaw more than $100 million in new construction and the creation of more than 400 jobs. The event center at Fox Run was renamed the Michael J. Maloney Event Center about two years ago.

Mr. Maloney also served his community as a volunteer. He was board chair for organizations that included the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, Coordinated Care, the Network in Aging, and Leading Age WNY. His efforts earned him numerous awards including the Western New York Association of Homes and Services’ Meritorious Service Award, New York Association of Homes Professional of the Year Award, and the Network in Aging’s Meritorious Service Award. He received the Caritas award from Brothers of Mercy last May.

Though limited physically with ALS in recent years, Mr. Maloney, his family and his friends have become key players in the fight against the disease, which has no cure, and limited treatment options.

His response to his diagnosis, he wrote in 2014, was “to make some difference for the next guy who hears, ‘You have ALS.’ So I embraced awareness and advocacy.”

Elizabeth Krisanda, executive director of the Upstate New York Chapter of the ALS Association, called Mr. Maloney the voice not only for the ALS community in his home region but also as an advocate on the national level when it came to working with the association policy committee as it has advocated for improved health and home care for those with the disease.

“He was an amazing force,” Krisanda said. “The fact that he used what remained of his voice in his efforts to address ALS was inspiring.”

In recent years, the Maloney Clan of Family and Friends has been the top fundraising group in the Buffalo Walk to Defeat ALS. The group, which numbers more than 100 members, also has participated in Ice Bucket Challenges and other fundraisers.

“He basically was behind everything,” said Maureen Myers, a family friend of 36 years who co-captained Maloney clan activities.

The clan in Buffalo has raised more than $190,000 through donations and sponsorships for the ALS Association – and Mr. Maloney’s three daughters and their families, who all live in Cleveland, raised another $60,000 in that city, Krisanda said.

Myers said the clan will continue to raise money in Mr. Maloney's memory, including with this year's Buffalo Walk to Defeat ALS on Aug. 5 at Coca-Cola Field.

Hours before his death, “he was on the phone with Washington, D.C., last Thursday with the national chapter,” Myers said. “He never stopped fighting. ... Every time he signed a message, it was in gratitude and hope.”

Mr. Maloney was an adoring “papa” to his nine grandchildren and loved playing checkers with them, cooking with them and teasing them. He was an avid bike rider, reader and gardener. He was happiest spending time with his family and friends on his backyard deck.

Survivors include his wife of 41 years, the former Ellyn Fay; three daughters, Jenny Lambert, Mary Beth Soeder and Colleen Griffith; a sister, Jill Syracuse; and nine grandchildren.

Family and friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Perna, Dengler, Roberts Funeral Home, 1671 Maple Road, Williamsville. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Christ the King Catholic Church, 30 Lamarck Drive, Snyder.

Donations may be made to Hearts for ALS NY in Rochester or Hospice Buffalo.

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