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William G. Coleman of Kenmore, a Tonawanda town justice for 20 years, died Tuesday (Nov. 26, 2002) in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a short illness. He would have been 80 next Thursday.

Born in Buffalo, in 1940 he was a member of the last graduating class from the old Kenmore High School building on Delaware Road.

He was a graduate of Hamilton College and earned his juris doctor degree from the University of Buffalo Law School. He served in the Navy during World War II as an engineering officer in the Pacific.

After law school, he was assistant to the general counsel at Bell Aircraft Corp. for five years, then worked with a couple of law firms before setting up his own practice in the late 1950s. He retired from law in the late 1990s.

A Republican, he was elected to his first four-year term as Tonawanda town justice in 1963. After five terms, he retired in 1983, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

"I've always enjoyed being a justice," he told The Buffalo News then. "It's the greatest feeling to do a real good job."

A perennial foe of drunken drivers, in his final year on the bench he stirred up a controversy by suppressing Breathalyzer evidence in a drunken-driving case after the manufacturer of the machine said the readings were not precise.

Ten years earlier, protesting that the state's traffic laws on drunken driving were "unenforceable," he proposed filming and tape recording drunken-driving suspects in lieu of breath tests to determine whether they were impaired or intoxicated.

In 1982, he was unsuccessful in a bid for an Erie County Court seat. He sought the Republican nomination for State Supreme Court in the 1978 primaries.

He was a former president of the Judges and Police Executives Conference of Erie County; a past Grand Knight of Kenmore Council 3076, Knights of Columbus; and past judge advocate of Harry E. Crosby Post 2472, Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He and his wife, Dolores G., celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in July.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three sons, Michael G. of Temecula, Calif., Daniel of Los Angeles and James of Cornwall; two daughters, Kathleen of Saunderstown, R.I., and Barbara of the Town of Tonawanda; and seven grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9 a.m. Saturday in St. Amelia's Catholic Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda. Entombment in Resurrection Chapel, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Town of Tonawanda, will be private.


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