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John L. Smith, 77, a retired investigator with the New York State Police, died Saturday (Feb. 17, 2001) in his Akron home after a brief illness.

The Buffalo native and longtime Clarence resident attended Riverside and Kenmore high schools.

From 1943 to 1946, he served with the U.S. Army Air Forces Transport Command as a flight engineer/aircraft mechanic in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

He then returned to his job as ground service manager for American Airlines at the Buffalo airport, where he began working in 1942. He remained there until 1953, when he enlisted in Troop A of the New York State Police at Batavia.

His job entailed road patrol, criminal and accident investigations and serving as acting commander of the Clarence barracks.

In 1961, he was promoted to investigator and served in various special units, including narcotics, arson and sex crimes.

In November 1969, he was promoted to the security escort detail, providing security for foreign, federal, state and local government officials and dignitaries -- including Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller and President Richard M. Nixon -- when they traveled through the area. He retired from the state police in 1973.

He then worked for R.J. Raymart and Hirsch Electronics in Williamsville until 1976, when he went to work as resident maintenance superintendent of the Wellington Court Apartments in Williamsville. He retired in 1984.

Smith was a member of the Clarence Center Volunteer Fire Company from 1949 to 1953. He served as chief in 1953.

In July 1976, Smith was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Federal Aviation Administration in recognition of his work in the creation of the Aircraft Search, Location and Rescue Association of Western New York, which helped volunteer fire companies, police agencies and airports in search and rescue of downed aircraft.

Smith received the Citizen of the Year Award for 1981-82 from the Hutchinson Hose Company and the Williamsville Fire Department for his bravery and work beyond the call of duty during a fatal fire at the Wellington Court Apartments.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Esther M. Miller; three sons, Tom Smith of the Town of Tonawanda, Sandy Larkin of Clarence and Dan Smith of Arlington, Mass; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Urban Brothers Funeral Home, 5895 Goodrich Road, Clarence.


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