July 4, 1944 – Jan. 4, 2018
Joseph M. Palka, of Clarence Center, owner and chief executive officer of a laboratory equipment manufacturing company, died unexpectedly Thursday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 73.
Born in North Tonawanda, he was a 1962 graduate of Bishop Duffy High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Canisius College, where he played varsity basketball.
After college, he worked for Bell Aerospace and enlisted in the Air Force in 1968. Assigned to what was then the 914th Tactical Airlift Group at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, he served for a year during the Vietnam War.
Returning from service, he worked in finance and product management for local companies, then in 1978 joined Gaymar Industries, a medical equipment manufacturer in Orchard Park, where he worked in product management and sales.
In 1982, he and two of his colleagues purchased Identi-plug, a line of foam test tube stoppers, from Gaymar, which wanted to divest the product. They founded a company, Jaece Industries Inc., and set up a manufacturing facility on Niagara Falls Boulevard in North Tonawanda.
Mr. Palka acquired the company from his partners in the 1990s and was active in directing it at the time of his death. One of his sons, Jeffrey M., works at the company in development and sales.
An accomplished golfer, he was a member of River Oaks Golf Club and Vanderbilt Country Club in Naples, Fla., where he had a winter home.
He also was a member of the Third Warders Social Club in North Tonawanda and the Scalp and Blade Fraternity.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, the former Judith King; two sons, Brian J. and Jeffrey M.; two sisters, Geraldine Brown and Cynthia Wildt; and three grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Tuesday in St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 200 St. Gregory Court, Amherst.