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Raymond F. Wardynski, who built sausage empire, dies at 96

May 26, 1921 -- May 27, 2017

Raymond F. Wardynski was born into the family business, grew up working alongside his father and turned a small local meat market into one of the best-loved names in local foods, known by the jingle "Don't give me that baloney, I want Wardynski's!"

Mr. Wardynski was born two years after his father opened the Frank Wardynski & Sons sausage business on Peckham and Detroit streets in Buffalo, and he died Saturday at his home in Sarasota, Fla., one day after he celebrated his 96th birthday with his wife, Sue, and other family members.

Wardynski Meats of Buffalo is internationally known for its Polish sausage, hot dogs and other products, and the family and company have long been pillars of the area's Polish-American community. Mr. Wardynski and his brother, Edmund, began helping their father as youngsters, with Ray learning to smoke hams when he was 10 years old. He took over managing the expanding business in 1945, when he returned from serving in World War II. He became company president in the 1950s.

By 1954, the company's wholesale business had grown so much that the decision was made to close the butcher shop – Wardynski sausages were found on store shelves throughout the area. Mr. Wardynski turned the business over to his own son, Raymond M. "Skip" Wardynski Sr., 25 years ago.

Even while he was building the company, Mr. Wardynski was active in Buffalo-area business, civic and cultural endeavors. He was a longtime national trustee of the Kosciuszko Foundation and served on the advisory board of the Bank of Buffalo. He spent decades as a member of the Ambassadors Committee and board of governors of St. Joseph's Intercommunity Hospital.

The dedication began in his youth, growing up on the East Side, where he graduated from St. Stanislaus School. A strapping and highly athletic six-footer, Mr. Wardynski played on the tennis teams at both Canisius High School and, after the war, at what was then known as University of Buffalo, where he earned a degree in business administration.

His fluency in Polish and German earned him a position in the U.S. Army's special services unit during World War II. He served in Europe, assisting in the interrogation of German prisoners of war.

Once he was back home, he immersed himself in the community. He assisted in the Buffalo Diocese's Catholic Charities fundraising efforts for many years, was a director of the United Fund and was a member of the Canisius (High School) Founders Club, the Adam Plewacki American Legion Post 799 and the Chopin Singing Society. He also was an employer-trustee of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Local 34 Welfare Fund and the Professional Businessmen's Association of Buffalo.

According to family members, he also loved sports, remaining active throughout his life with skiing, bowling, golf and squash. He even had a tennis court in the backyard of his Williamsville home.

His wife, who was known as Sue but who was baptized Sophia, is a former president of the Women's Guild of the Consolata Seminary of Erie County, and for many years Mr. Wardynski was  a member of the seminary's Consolata Centurians.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Wardynski is survived by two daughters, Paula and Catherine, and three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are expected to be completed after the Memorial Day holiday.

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