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Cleon O. Service, 85, a real estate agent whose family started the first African-American real estate company in Buffalo, died Wednesday (Oct. 24, 2001) in the Hospice unit of Buffalo General Hospital after a battle with cancer.

Born in Springfield, Mass., he came to Buffalo at the age of 9. He attended the University of Buffalo, the University of Toronto and Toronto Conservatory of Music, which he left in his senior year to join the Army Air Forces and serve in World War II.

Returning from service, he joined his father, A. Newton Service, in the family business, Newton Real Estate, and became president of the company in 1957 upon his father's death.

He maintained an office on Main Street near Sisters Hospital until his death, specializing in finding homes for black buyers who wanted to move to the suburbs. He became affiliated with Century 21 in 1977.

He joined with five other black real estate agents in 1972 to found Spartacus Securities of Western New York, a mortgage banking firm that used federal programs to help low-income buyers get home mortgages. He served as president and chief executive officer.

Service had a lifelong passion for music. As a young man, he played and taught organ. Later he was active as a choir director and a church organist for Bethel A.M.E. Church and pianist for choral groups and soloists. As a young man, he also gave solo piano concerts.

Active as a board member and supporter of many political, artistic and educational organizations, he was chairman of the Michigan Branch of the YMCA and president of the Community Planning Assistance Center. He also was a member of the board of directors of the Ujima Theater.

His wife, Helen, died in 1981.

Surviving are a sister, Erna Clark of Buffalo.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today in St. Philip's Episcopal Church, Sussex and Grider streets. Burial will be private.


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