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George R. Hugenschmidt, 89, of Alden, a retired tool and die maker, environmentalist, mink rancher, pet food manufacturer, pugilist and artist, died Friday (Feb. 2, 2001) in Hospice Buffalo after a brief illness.

Born in Forks, he briefly attended the former Franciscan Seminary at Callicoon. He subsequently was engaged in a number of activities, including sign writing for the former G.C. Murphy's Department Store on Broadway.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he boxed as a bantamweight throughout the East and appeared in some preliminary events at Madison Square Garden in New York. His boxing achievements are posted in the Buffalo Boxing Hall of Fame in City Hall.

He also was a cook at the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Letchworth Park and was a member of the construction crew that built the major stone bridge in the park.

Hugenschmidt began his tool-making career during World War II at the Bell Aircraft plant. He later worked for Calspan, Moog and the General Motors Tonawanda plant, from which he retired in 1979.

He also operated one of the area's largest mink ranches and pet food manufacturing facilities during the 1940s and 1950s in Forks, Bowmansville and Alden. State wildlife authorities until recently attributed occasional catches of pastel mink along Ellicott Creek in Bowmansville to descendants of mink that escaped from Hugenschmidt's ranch.

Also during the 1950s, Hugenschmidt handcrafted his own home, planted 18,000 fir trees and began digging an adjacent small lake with a hand shovel. With the assistance of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the lake eventually was expanded to become a 16-acre wildlife and waterfowl refuge. Known initially as 7-Penny Lake and now as Little Lake George, the lake has been used by community groups for fishing and churches for baptisms.

Hugenschmidt also was an oil and watercolor painter, stone mason and coppersmith. He enjoyed fishing.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, the former Mary Jackowski; four daughters, Marilyn D. Reise of Williamsville, Cheryl A. Goodrich of Clarence, Kathryn M. "Kitty" of Colorado Springs and Louise Federmann of Huntington Beach, Calif.; a sister, Caroline Manhardt of Clarence; nine grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held in March at a time and place to be announced.

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