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Gene J. DiGiore of Cheektowaga, who worked on one of the first helicopters for Bell Aircraft, died Tuesday (September 19, 2000) in Hospice Buffalo after a long illness. He was 80.

Born in Italy, DiGiore came to Buffalo when he was 3 and lived in the city until about 10 years ago, when he moved to Cheektowaga. In recent years, he spent his winters in Daytona Beach, Fla., where friends called him "the mayor of the Inn on the Beach."

After graduating from Technical High School in 1939, he went to work as a flight mechanic for Bell Aircraft, where he was involved with one of the company's first helicopters. He left Bell in 1942 to join the U.S. Army Air Corps, and was in the service for four years.

Upon his return from World War II, DiGiore worked as a carpenter and was a member of Carpenters Local 1577. He also owned a distributorship for Nehi soda pop, driving a truck he nicknamed "the stage coach."

DiGiore, who also obtained his insurance and real estate broker licenses, retired in July 1977.

A former member of the Holy Name Society at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, he also belonged to American Legion Post 799 and, in the 1940s, was a bugler for the post's drum corps.

DiGiore is survived by his wife, the former Kathryn Mallia; a daughter, Annette Kwaczala of West Seneca; a son, Gene Jr. of North Tonawanda; a sister, Florence Rich of Williamsville; a brother, Joseph Jr. of Amherst; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Prayers will be said at 8:45 a.m. Monday in the Cleveland Hill Chapel of Amigone Funeral Home, 569 Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 Monday in Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church, 180 George Urban Blvd., Cheektowaga. Burial will be in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga.

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